There are peripheries of the world where even just thinking of going to school is a luxury. One of these is Pakistan, where especially the poorest pay the price of a backlog and unbalanced system, suburbs in the suburbs.
“Illiteracy– explains Faizan Afzal, freelance journalist – is a time bomb constantly ticking, just as the population explosion, which keeps our national development stagnant“. The Asian country is still far from being able to universalise the basic education system. Several political, economic and cultural factors hinder the achievement of a decent rate of literacy. The capability and political will are missing.
Activists in the front line
But something is changing, especially thanks to the efforts of NGOs such as BRAC. They created non-formal primary schools, designed to provide an opportunity for disadvantaged and marginalised children, left out of the formal system of education because of the extreme poverty, of the impossibility of displacement, of violence or discrimination.
The model of this system is unique. It operates on the model “One room, one school“. These mini institutes enrol a maximum of thirty students, by providing them with the school material, by recruiting a teacher from the same area that provides the basic primary education.
The modern techniques employed by non-governmental organizations, as public-private partnerships, the literacy of the family, teacher training, and the involvement of the Community, are therefore giving good results.
The role of NGOs in the field of education is very clear: they do not intend to replace the government, but they operate in order to ensure quality standards, accessibility and fairness throughout the country. Education is not compulsory at any level, so the illiteracy rate is very high. Only one adult on four knows how to read and write.
Moreover: Pakistan is among the last ten nations in the world for the education of girls. Those who pursue their studies at a higher level are less than 2% and less than 1 % are those that access to university. For those few that make use of it, the school system follows the English model: six classes for the primary school and five for the secondary. To go to the University, it is necessary to give an exam called matric.
In the elementary school, there is only one teacher for each class, the subjects that they study are: Urdu (the national language), mathematics, English, geography, history, science; there are no subjects such as: physical education, artistic education and technical education.
The only real exception, in the distressing rural Pakistani panorama is the valley of Hunza, in Gilgit-Baltistan, the northernmost region of Pakistan. This area has become a model, also analysed in reports like the one of Andreas Benz, an academic of the University of Bonn. Here the literacy rate is between 60% and 100%, comparable to the one of the urban and economic centres of the country as Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan.
The target of schooling is therefore still far away, because despite the partnership between government and NGOs, over 70 per cent of the children in Punjab are still outside the schools, and students attending the schools are delayed with respect to the teaching method set at global level. According to the statistics, twenty-four million children do not go to school in Pakistan, the highest figure in the world after Nigeria. A challenge.