ISLAMABAD  -   Enrolment of around 22million Out of School (OOSC) children is the biggest challenge for the government, while poverty is a major obstacle in overcoming the problem, Thursday. This was stated by speakers in a discussion held by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on the occasion of celebrating first international day of education.

The panellists included UNICEF chief of education in Pakistan Ellen Van Kalmthout, head of communication for development Ghazala Farid and education officer Talha Zakriya.  It was stated that in Pakistan, 23 million children aged 5-16 remain out of school —44percent of the total population in this age group.

The country has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) at the primary level, with five million children aged 5-9 not attending school. After primary-school age, the number of OOSC doubles, with 11 million adolescents between the ages of 10-14 not receiving formal education. Chief of education Allen Van Kalmthout said that provision of education to every child is the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of the United Nations (UN) and no SDG could be achieved without addressing the education issue. She said that UNICEF is providing support to the government to bring 22million OOSC back to school.  “Out of such a huge umber 70percent are those who never went to school,” she said.

On this occasion head of communications Ghazala Farid said that bigger challenge for Pakistan is the enrolment of OOSC and majority of it includes female students. She said that UNICEF’s mandate is to provide support on policy and technical level to uplift the education sector in Pakistan and it also run campaign on all government levels.  She added that communities are engaged at micro level to encourage them for sending children to school to reduce the dropout rate in the country.

“Government has a responsibility to provide education to every child under article 25-A of the constitution,” she said.  Responding to the query she said that growing population is one of the reasons behind the decrease of literacy rate from 60 to 58percent. Education officer Talha Zakriya said that poverty is one of the key issue creating hurdles in access of the education for children.

He also said that media has a key role to play as education is needed to be prioritised for creating awareness. He added that the data collected by government regarding OOSC also needs to be verified.  Statement issued said that Pakistan and countries around the world celebrate the first International Day of Education, reminding that without inclusive and equitable quality learning for all, countries will not succeed in breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children and their families behind.

In December last year, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as International Day of Education in celebration of the role of learning for peace and development. It said that today, 262 million children and youth still do not attend school across the globe. When they are in school, they do not always access quality education, 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math. Quality education includes learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities.

Children who are in school in Pakistan are not always learning. The 2016 National Education Assessment Report shows that a sizeable proportion of students scored below the acceptable minimum levels for core subjects.  “Every child has the right to an education and quality learning opportunities from early childhood to adolescence. And yet, a range of factors – including economic circumstances, low-quality teaching and schools, geographic location, gender, disability – prevent millions of Pakistani children from learning,” the statement said. “Today is a call for action. Together we can take concrete steps towards quality early learning, primary or secondary education, to support two of the Government’s priorities, out-of-school children and youth employability. We can scale up models which suppo

rt out-of-school girls and boys with alternative learning programmes, offering adolescents a pathway to develop the employability skills they need to access decent employment.” Quality education is one of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on its own. It is also a tool to help achieve many other goals such as poverty eradication, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, improved health outcomes or gender equality.