On 14th August, I was able to attend independence day celebrations at an NGO funded school in Lahore. The school was located in the outskirts of the city, within a small town called Babu Sabu. Surprisingly, till a great distance there were no other schools in the area. And the school constructed by the NGO some 5 years ago, had been the first one there. The children of this rural neighbourhood, mostly poor sons and daughters of shop workers and animal rearers etc, had been earlier deprived of education.
The children participated in the function with immense vigour and enthusiasm. Displayed their patriotism and love for their land with brilliant performances. They talked about their future aspirations of doing something big and making their country proud. I pray that each of those children get to fulfill their dreams even if the stacks are aligned against them.
Pakistan has a striking rate of 22.7 million out of school children which is the second highest number in the world. This situation is exacerbated by striking inequalities based on sex and socioeconomic status. In the school there were some kids who were trying to catch a glimpse of the function by peeking in through the gate. On being asked, I was told that these kids weren't enrolled in the school because their families needed their help in earning a living.
Our government's negligence in this regard is one of the primal reasons here. For 2019-2020, only 2.3% of the total budget was allocated towards education. Such negligence has rendered access to education quite restricted for the majority. Even when poor children do acquire access through government schools or civil society interventions, the quality of education they receive is quite mediocre. It is nowhere comparable to the quality education elite kids receive in elite schools. Their chances of higher education in high ranking institutes are also restricted. The NGO headed school will support the 250 enrolled children of Babu Sabu till class 8th. Where would the children go afterwards? Would they have a chance to study in colleges and universities and be able to fulfill their dreams? Their future remains uncertain like the future of most underprivileged children in this country.
More schools need to be built in areas other than the urban sphere and immediate attention needs to given to improving the quality and standards of government sector schools.