CARE, Increasing Access to Education in PakistanAlthough schooling is compulsory in Pakistan for kids aged 5 to 16, it is not as accessible as it could be. Nearly 22.7 million children are unable to access education in Pakistan. Girls are excluded from school at even higher rates than boys. According to Human Rights Watch, 31% of girls are not able to go to primary school compared to 21% of boys.

Barriers to Education

There are several factors that make education inaccessible for children, especially for girls. The first factor is a lack of funding. Education is underfunded in Pakistan. Only 2.8% of its GDP is spent on education, which is underperforming relative to the 4% that the United Nations recommends.

Lack of funding means that there is an unfortunate shortfall of schools and not everyone can attend, decreasing access to education in Pakistan. This issue is especially pertinent in rural areas. In Pakistan’s rural areas, schools are fewer and farther between. This makes it much harder for students to get an education, especially since private schools tend to operate in urban centers.

The second barrier to education in Pakistan is social norms. Some people in Pakistan do not believe that girls should receive an education. Particularly in more conservative communities, female students can face backlash for continuing their education. Girls also tend to be married younger, and thus have to prioritize their new families above their education. This keeps girls from attending school at higher rates relative to boys.

The third obstacle to access to education in Pakistan is instability. Given the relatively unstable nature of the Pakistani government, extremist groups have been able to launch attacks on schools, specifically against girls. This deters girls from attending school since they fear for their lives. It also creates a vicious cycle of instability, where violence hurts economic output, which in turn hurts the government’s ability to fund education.

CARE Foundation: Improving Access to Education

Fortunately, humanitarian organizations are seeking to rectify these barriers to education in Pakistan. One such organization is the CARE Foundation. The Foundation seeks to improve access to education through three key programs.

The first program concentrates on building public-private partnerships. In order to improve the educational system, CARE partners with existing public schools to rebuild infrastructures, improve curriculums and make educational resources more accessible. This program also helps build necessary infrastructure investments and rebuild existing crumbling infrastructure.

Thus far, CARE has adopted 683 government-run schools across Pakistan to improve their efficacy. In adopting schools, the organization has been able to improve its function. Enrollment in CARE’s schools has gone up 400% and a 10% decrease in dropouts. Creating public schools, which are free, is crucial in ensuring students can access education in Pakistan.

The second and third programs focus on building new schools and scholarship programs. CARE is heavily involved in the construction of new schools, where the organization can apply its unique approach to training teachers and administrators. Then, CARE helps teach the government curriculum in order to help students with the existing government tests. CARE has founded and built 33 schools that are now operational and teaching students.

Although enrollment in higher education is rising, only 15% of eligible Pakistanis are enrolled in universities. However, CARE is trying to help resolve this problem through scholarship programs. Picking eligible and high performing students, CARE offers scholarships for students to attend institutes for higher education. Its focus is on students studying medicine, commerce and engineering.

With these efforts and its three key programs, CARE is working to ensure that every student in Pakistan has access to education. While there are many barriers to education in Pakistan to overcome, the government and humanitarian organizations like CARE Foundation are increasing access to education in Pakistan, increasing youth’s opportunities and job prospects.

– Thomas Gill
Photo: Flickr 

Development in Pakistan
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra announced at the National Skills Show that the Government of Pakistan would push a new emphasis on skills training for their youth. Through this initiative, they hope to boost future development in Pakistan.

Governor Jhagra asked industrialists to start training youth in vocational and technical skills, establishing institutes that will offer these programs. He noted that reducing unemployment and poverty rates greatly helps youth to succeed.

The National Skills Show, organized by the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTCC), takes place in the U.K. annually. It features five sectors: engineering and technology, media and creative, IT and enterprise, hospitality and lifestyle as well as construction and infrastructure. The best and the brightest students of the U.K. come together to compete and demonstrate their skills in one of these sectors.

Governor Jhagra stressed that Pakistan has an agricultural economy, highlighting the importance of focusing on skills training within the industry. In addition, technical education is extremely important for keeping the unemployment rates low.

As of 2015, Pakistan holds an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, a slight decrease from six percent the previous year. But in 2013, the World Bank noted that 29.5 percent of the nearly 190 million people living in Pakistan resided below the poverty line.

Executive Director of NAVTTC, Zulfiqar Ahmad Cheema, noted that 50,000 youth in Pakistan will take part in skills training in multiple trades. The courses that they engage in will be free of charge, and they will receive a stipend as trainees.

Governor Jhagra is determined to fully utilize the capabilities of the talented Pakistani youth population. He stated, “Our human capital is our biggest asset.” Currently, young citizens make up 60 percent of the population.

Ambassadors from Germany, the Netherlands and the European Union joined the show and congratulated the winners. They agreed with Pakistani officials in recognizing how skills training can boost the economy and decrease poverty.

This effort will provide a large majority of the Pakistani youth with employable skills, granting them financial independence, reducing the poverty rate throughout the country and helping meet the needs of local and international job markets—ultimately, improving development in Pakistan.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Residents of the Upper Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan have been walking in the dark for as long as they can remember. However, that is beginning to change, starting with the installation of a micro-hydropower station that will bring electricity to the region.

Electricity Benefits the Economy

The introduction of electricity in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Malakand Division has provided residents with benefits that most people take for granted. They can now walk safely at night without worrying about tumbling off steep paths. The 80-kilowatt power plant also allows residents in the region to continue working after sundown. A town elder, Zareen Gujar, said, “We in Serai have never seen any development activity since this country came into being, as we had no roads, no middle school or high school, not even a dispensary. We have been living a life of deprivation.”

Resources from Pakistan 

The power plant cost $105,000, of which about $9,000 was raised locally. It provides electricity to about 700 households. Micro-hydropower stations require less water than conventional hydropower stations, and can produce five to 100 kilowatts. It is estimated that 30% or more Pakistanis have no electricity, and those who do are subject to frequent blackouts. In a country with a severe energy crisis, the people must turn to their natural resources. The massive water potential in the Malakand Division, when used properly, can help alleviate energy problems in the area.

Living in Multidimensional Poverty

As many as 58.7 million people in Pakistan live in multidimensional poverty, including 46% of the rural population. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) measures poverty on five dimensions: education, health, water supply and sanitation, household assets and satisfaction to service delivery. In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 33% of households live under the poverty line.

Developments like the micro-hydropower station help households attain access to energy, and therefore allow adults to work more efficiently in the evening and children to study into the night. Similar power plants are in the works for the area, a step that could lead to solving Pakistan’s energy crisis.

– Haley Sklut

Photo: Maati
Tribune, United Press International