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For many children of Balochistan, attending school is not an option

Express Tribune Correspondent

QUETTA: A damning report on the state of education in Balochistan, Pakistan’s most deprived province, has revealed that 34.1% of children aged between six and 16 are not enrolled in schools.

Around 77.7% children in the pre-primary school age group are not attending elementary schools in the province.

These and other shocking statistics were revealed at the provincial launch of Pakistan’s largest-ever citizen-led household-based Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Survey 2012 in Quetta.

The survey also identified that children of school-going age across the country have an alarmingly poor learning ability in terms of reading Urdu, regional languages, English or doing basic levels of arithmetic. “Almost 92.2% of Class-III students are not able to read Class-II level story in Urdu or regional languages like Sindhi and Pashto, while almost 78% of students cannot read Class-II level sentences,” the ASER report said.

ASER’s specifically trained volunteer team surveyed 16,303 households in 825 villages located in 28 rural districts of Balochistan and detailed information of 56,375 children (59% male and 41% female) aged between three and 16 years was collected.

The report stated that 34.1% of children falling in the six to 16 age brackets were not attending schools in Balochistan. Girls account for 21% of this figure and boys account for 13%.

However, the number of children falls dramatically as the progress is made to higher classes. “The number of children comes down drastically as they progress to higher classes. For every 8 children in Class-1, only 3 children reach up to Class-X.”

The learning skills of children aged between five and 16 were assessed through specifically designed language and mathematics tests, which covered languages up to Grade-II level text and arithmetic covering up to Grade-III level textbooks. The depressing results showed that nearly 84.5% of children in Grade-III could not read even a sentence in Urdu or their own language.

The lack of emphasis on learning English as a language has been well documented in the country over the years.

English reading and comprehension tests reported that 68.1% of Class-V students, 49.5% Class-VI and 40.9% Class-VII students could not read Class-II level English sentences – raising serious questions about their learning abilities.

All was not doom and gloom in the ASER survey. It reported that 34% of boys and 19% of girls were able to read at least Urdu, Sindhi and Pashto sentences. Similarly, 35% of males and 20% of females were able to correctly read words and sentences in English, while 38% of the former and 18% of the latter were able to do basic subtraction and division arithmetic problems.

“As many as 58.3% of surveyed private high schools and 9.6% government schools had functional computer labs. While 41.6% private high schools and 12.9% government high schools had library books available for students to use in the schools premises,” the ASER report noted.

Up to 56% of the private primary schools and 14% government schools surveyed did not have adequate and useable water facilities. Similarly, 78% public and 19% private primary schools do not have functional toilet facilities.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2013.