out of school children in Bajaur district. Photo by Hanifullah Jan

ISLAMABAD:Pakistan celebrated the first International Day of Education on Thursday to renew its commitment of providing inclusive and quality learning for all children. 

Pakistan and countries around the world celebrated the first International Day of Education on January 24, 2019, reminding us 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 United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as International Day of Education in celebration of the role of learning for peace and development. This is a reminder of our collective duty to help every girl and boy access the quality education that is their right, offering them a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future.

According to Unicef, 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.

In Pakistan, 23 million children aged 5-16 remain out of school — fourty-four percent 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.

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,” said Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan.

“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 support 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.


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