International Literacy Day: Education is basic right of every child: moot told

KARACHI: Educationalists industrialists, policy makers, government officials and representatives of business groups gathered at a moot held in a local hotel on Monday to share their views on national literacy and to highlight the issues of school participation and dropout crisis.

The ‘International Literacy Day’ was celebrated by the Sindh Education Foundation to provide a platform to the stakeholders to share their reflections regarding the improvement of children’s participation in education that will lead to improved national literacy rate.

More than 100 participants, including government officials, social workers, university students and professionals from the public and private sectors, discussed the aspects affecting school participation and the ways to retain students so that the dropout crisis could be curtailed.

The panel of experts present at the forum comprised notable personalities such as Prof. Anita Ghulam Ali Sindh Education Foundation, Dr. Muhammad Memon Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development, Dr. Ahson Rabbani Aman Foundation, Mr. Jami Chandio Centre for Peace & Civil Society, Naveed Ahmed Shaikh Reform Support Unit, Mr. Wali Zahid
SkillCity and Mrs. Bushra Afzal The Citizens’ Foundation.

Mr. Aziz Kabani Director Programs, Operations & Research – Sindh Education Foundation introduced International Literacy Day which was initiated by UNESCO in 1965. He stated that the panel discussion would be based on school participation in order to improve the national literacy rate as well as improve the access to quality education. He shared the alarming situation of the Sindh province where only 6.4 million children are receiving education whereas there are a total of 11 million children who are in their school going age. 54 percent boys are attaining education in urban areas while 46 percent are girls whereas 63 percent boys are attaining education in rural areas while 37 percent are girls. 59 percent of the people are literate in urban areas of Sindh province while 42 percent in rural areas.

Jami Chandio Executive Director, Centre for Peace & Civil Society highlighted that education is the basic right of every child and it is the state’s responsibility to provide this facility to the children. The state of literacy across the Sindh province should be attained through proper mapping study so that we could receive a clear picture. Corresponding mechanisms, time bound policies and strategies are mandatory. 21 percent Rs.132 billion has been allotted to education in annual budget 201314 whereas Rs.118 billion is fixed only for the salaries of the education sector professionals which leaves very little to fulfil the requirements of proper infrastructure and efficient resources. He emphasized that incentive mechanism is very important for the children of poor communities could be convinced for formal education.

Mrs. Bushra Afzal Vice Chairperson, The Citizens’ Foundation stated that the resources of our country are not limited. Teacher training is very important because a teacher is the essential element who could take the national literacy rate to another level.

Wali Zahid Chief Executive Officer, Skill City brought attention to the fact that we have mass populations across the districts of Sindh province. Accountability element is noteworthy to address so that the problem of ghost schools and teachers could be eliminated. Linguistic and numerical literacies are the basic forms of literacy which are required whereas the next steps are digital and technological literacies. The attention spans of the children changes really fast these days therefore it is important to make the lectures interactive and interesting for them.

Dr. Ahson Rabbani Executive Director, Aman Foundation raised the question whether the problem of illiteracy is that of the demand side or supply side. In our case, it is totally supply side problem. Parents are willing to send their children to school if it is accessible, affordable, safe and effective. If behaviours performance, learning and lifestyle of the children are not changing, the parents will not be in favour of formal education.

Dr. Muhammad Memon Professor, Aga Khan University – Institute for Educational Development stated that literacy enables one to think constructively, work productively, and develop effective and efficient decisions making skills. It is most essential in life because it can broaden ones outlook and help one appreciate the world around.

By developing the ability to read, write and communicate an individual is made capable as a fully functional, socially responsible and financially independent person. We are taking literacy as part of education which is a good beginning towards improving school participation and dropout crisis.

Teachers have to adopt a caring attitude which has never been there. Curriculum, assessment, textbooks are provided to the teachers but they lack the empowerment element. We need a chain reaction to take place i.e. a school going child can convince out-of-school child.

Prof. Anita Ghulam Ali Managing Director, Sindh Education Foundation pointed the adult women learners who are studying in our empowerment centers in the disadvantaged communities which helps them learn the importance of being literate and educated. Interaction with the community members is important at the same time to bring convince.

It is important to inspire students and the teacher must let the child know that he/she will help him/her in going forward and that both of them will work together and harder. There is extreme poverty, environment is not conducive and worst levels of illiteracy across the province and there is need to understand the ground realities to implement the policies.

Naveed Ahmed Shaikh Deputy Program Manager, Reform Support Unit stated that 58 percent choose to drop out of the school before reaching their matriculation. People whose children attend public schools do not have voice therefore the basic facilities are absent and no one pays any attention towards lack of wash rooms drinking water and boundary walls.
Government officials or people like us would never want their children to attend a public school because we do not rely upon the effectiveness of the performance of the schools.

The panel discussion was followed by Questions and Answers Session. Aziz Kabani concluded the ceremony by pointing out the fact that the overall state of literacy in Pakistan was dismal, there were isles of excellence present in the country and people working hard to improve the field of education. He said that it was the Government’s responsibility to better the state of education and literacy in the nation. He added that literacy does not only mean reading and writing anymore but encompasses visual, media, cultural, civic and technological literacy as well.

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