Pakistan and Afghanistan are both countries that have been plagued by war, civil unrest and sectarian violence in the last decades. Many argue that these unfortunate set of circumstances are what set these countries back compared to other countries especially in terms of education.
In a recent article published by the The News International according to the UN Global Education Monitoring Report – 2016, Pakistan is 50 years behind in primary education and 60 years behind in secondary education. In 2015 global leaders collectively agreed upon the terms that by 2030 both boys and girls should have access to state-sponsored primary and secondary education. As per the UN report 57 million are illiterate and 24 million children are not in school: 5.6 million of whom are of primary school schooling age, 5.5 million of whom are of secondary schooling age, and a whooping 10.4 million of whom are of upper secondary schooling age are all out of school. This indicates the difficulty that Pakistan will have in helping to achieve the global goal set for 2030. Additionally, in poorer rural areas among the male literacy rate is at 64%, whereas the female literacy rate is a dismal 14%. Much of female illiteracy is due to the influence of conservative leaders and the Taliban in rural areas.
Despite the situation in Pakistan, politicians are reacting because the reality is that a country does not grow without education. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, the Punjab Chief Minister’s vision of promoting education has been executed by Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, Provincial Minister for Education. The education reforms are not limited to the primary and secondary school level, Khan has been instrumental in leading an initiative for Pakistani students to go abroad and obtain their PhD. To read more about this read this article in the Pakistan Observer.
An article in Dunya News discusses a similar movement has come to light that is being lead by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The HEC has pledged to send 10,000 PhD candidates to the United States to pursue studies in Agriculture and Food Security, Medical and Allied Health Sciences, Energy, Water, Climate Change and Advanced Digital Technology. Although this is positive progress in terms of education, the focus on tertiary education has been criticized when levels of primary and secondary education are so low and ignored by certain provincial leaders.
Pakistan declared September 13th to be Eid al Adha, which is also a national holiday. Eid al Adha marks the end of the holy pilgrimage of Hajj, one of the five pillars in Islam, in Saudi Arabia. Although this day is supposed to be celebrated with family, friends and food, once again Pakistan was hit by a wave of deadly violence. After a bomb blast in Quetta, there were two police casualties and eight others were injured. Additionally, the bomb caused chaos and resulted in a stampede.
In Srinagar, India-controlled Kashmir a mainly Muslim state, there are curfews imposed and prayers cancelled at mosques after there was deadly violence. Two individuals were shot and killed by security forces, and several more were wounded. Another 50 people were injured when security forces tried to stop protests near Srinagar airport. They were injured by the use of tear gas and pellet guns.
Although many Muslims consider this day to be one of the holiest days on the Islamic calendars, unfortunately most have become desensitized to the deadly violence that takes place on holy days or any other for that matter.
We hope to keep you up to date with news of the South Asian region! Stay tuned for postings about current events as well as the situation in the area for women and the issue of education.