ISLAMABAD: Pakistan ranks 113th among 120 countries regarding literacy rate, which is projected to reach 60 percent till 2015 from the existing 55 percent.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in collaboration with Unicef and International Labor Organization (ILO) organised an event here on Tuesday titled ‘Girls’ Right to Education’.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Pakistan Timo Pakkala, Unesco’s Director Kozue Kay Nagata, ILO’s Country Director Francesco d’Ovidio, Unido’s Country Director Shadia Yousif Bakhait, Unicef’s National Gender Specialist Sadaf Zulfiqar and Unesco’s National Education Specialist Arshad Saeed Khan were among participants of the event.
Timo Pakkala said: “Education is one of the key priority areas of the government of Pakistan, but to increase the overall literacy rate of the country, it is essential to change the mind set of the communities especially in this patriarchal society.”
“Pakistan is lagging behind in the achievement of MDGs, while a lot of work is to be done in education sector to achieve MDGs especially in remote areas and Fata where the female literacy rate is just three percent,” Timo Pakkala said.
He said that the devolution of Ministry of Education to the provinces is a unanimous political decision and the provinces would have to make efforts to cope with this heavy responsibility of improving and developing the education sector of Pakistan.
According to him, empowering girls and women through quality education is the smartest investment for breaking the poverty cycle and achieving social justice.
Arshad Saeed Khan said that the United Nations’ Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) was a flagship for girls’ education. It served as a principal movement to narrow the gender gap in primary and secondary education and to ensure the right to education and gender equality for all children, girls and boys alike, he said.
Arshad said that Pakistan was spending just 2.3 percent of its GNP and 9.9 percent of overall government budget on education, India 4.5 percent of GNP and 12.7 % of government budget, while Bangladesh was spending 2.1 percent of GNP and 14.1 percent of total government budget on education.
Pakistan’s literacy rate was projected to reach 60 percent, India’s 71 percent, while Bangladesh was estimated to have 61 percent literacy rate by 2015.
Youth (between age 15-24) female literacy rate in Pakistan is 61% against 79% for males. However, youth female literacy rate is projected to be 72% (against 82% for males) by year 2015, whereas adult female literacy rate of older age group (15+) is projected to be 47%.
Other participants emphasised that economic progress was not possible when 50 percent human resources were uneducated. Armed conflicts in society and among groups could be avoided when women had equal access to education and participate in decision-making. Some key donors were not only reducing their overall aid budgets, but might also be assigning education a lower priority.
Participants said that literacy was crucial for adults’ social and economic well-being and that of their children. Yet progress on this goal had been very limited, largely as a result of government and donor indifference, while there were still 775 million adults across the world who could not read or write.