Over 22 million children in Pakistan between the age group of five and 16 are out of schools despite the government's claim of improving their enrolment in educational institutions, according to a report.
The Pakistan Education Statistic 2015-16 report launched yesterday by a department of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training disclosed that as many as 44 per cent children (22.6 million) between the age group of five to 16 are still out of school, Dawn reported.
The report said the number of out-of-school children has reduced from last year's figure of 24 million to 22.6 million.
The statistics further said 21 per cent primary schools in the country are being run by a single teacher while 14 per cent have one room.
It said only 30 per cent children remain enrolled from class one till tenth. Balochistan region is home to the highest proportion of out-of-school children followed by the impoverished tribal region along Afghan border.
"As many as 70 per cent children in Balochistan and 58 per cent in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are out of school," the report said.
As regards to schools' infrastructure, 40 per cent public sector primary schools were operating without electricity, 28 per cent did not have toilets, 25 per cent were without boundary walls and 29 per cent had no access to drinking water. While 7 per cent schools did not have any building and 43 per cent had unsatisfactory buildings.
"The situation is pathetic; it has been like this for a long time and is getting worse. The government should prioritise the education sector," said Khalid Aftab, former vice chancellor of a government university, Lahore.
"I think, the actual figure of out-of-school children is much higher than 22.6 million; how can we rely on this data," he said.
Speaking at the launching ceremony, Minister of State for Federal Education Balighur Rehman said, the report noted considerable improvement in the Net Enrolment Rate in Primary Education, availability of physical facilities in government schools and reduction in number of out-of-school children (OOSC).
"The number of OOSC in classes one to 12 and the age bracket of five to 16 years has reduced by 3 per cent per annum from 25.96 million in 2012-13 to 22.64 million in 2015-16. Punjab province has outperformed other provinces by managing to reduce the number by 6 per cent per annum from 12.87 million to 9.92 million during the same period," the minister said.
Rehman said the net enrolment rate in primary education had improved at the rate of 4 per cent per annum from 14.65 million in 2012-13 to 17.1 million in 2015-16. Again, Punjab had fared better than other provinces, making a contribution of 6 per cent per annum.
The minister also appreciated improvements in physical facilities in government schools and urged provincial governments to concentrate in this area.