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EDITORIAL: In the post-colonial world as gold and diamond plundering is no more the right of colonial powers what has still kept most of the former colonies backward and underdeveloped is their education systems which remain unequal to those of their former colonial masters. And that inequality not only persists, but has intensified by acting, in the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, as “great divider”.

Unequal education is quickly dividing the planet, he said as he spoke on Monday at a special event on education he had called a day before the formal opening of General Assembly annual session. Instead of being the great enabler education is fast becoming the great divide, he said, adding if the Covid-19 was not enough to have devastating impact on students in poor countries the conflicts between them are accentuating that great divide.

Secretary General Guterres also appealed to all countries to “prioritise increasing spending per student even amid question mark over global economy”. We must know that education being the key to personal development and future of society, it unlocks opportunities and narrows inequalities. It is, no doubt, the bedrock of informed, tolerant societies and primary driver of sustainable development.

According to various surveys, roughly 70 percent of 10-year-olds in poorer countries are unable to read basic text. In there the curricula are outdated and narrow, teachers are undertrained and underpaid. The current state of education in Pakistan is not very different from whatever has been projected about other underdeveloped and developing countries. And this is in clear violation of the constitution.

Article 25A mandates that the state “shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years”. But that is not being done, an inability all the more critical as the subject of education is fully devolved to provinces. So, what to talk of quality education it is not there even in its elementary version. And whatever little the country produces as ‘knowledge capital’ it doesn’t take long to be transmitted to greener fields in the developed countries.

In his address, Secretary General Guterres also called the Afghan Taliban, who have deprived one million teenage girls of education since they took over in August 2021, out for their unacceptable actions or behaviour. “I appeal to the authorities in Afghanistan: Lift all restrictions on girls’ access to secondary education immediately,” he said, while the Afghan robotics team member Somaya Faruqi, who was present at the event, lamented that what to talk of opening girls schools the Taliban are “slowly erasing our existence in society. … Thousands of girls may never return to school, as the promise of reopening schools came and went”. Last but not least, Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest authors of all time, had famously said: “In education, once more, the chief things are equality and freedom.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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Education inequality as ‘great divider’

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