Literacy is a basis for lifelong learning and plays a foundational role in the creation of sustainable, prosperous and peaceful societies. Sadly, it has yet to get due recognition here given the Punjab governments failure to raise the literacy rate from 60pc.
The figure is hovering around 60pc for the past seven years. At a time when the world is celebrating the International Literacy Day based on the theme Literacy and Sustainable Development on Monday (today), an uncountable number of children and adults in Punjab are grappling with ignorance.
The PML-N had taken over the Punjab government in 2008 with 58pc literacy rate, which went up to 62pc in 2011 only to drop afterwards. This year, Punjabs literacy rate is all-time low, that is, 57.97pc.
According to the district-wise literacy rate map on the Punjab Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education Department (L&NFBE) website, there are only six districts in Punjab that have above 70pc literacy rate. They are: Rawalpindi (79pc), Chakwal (78pc), Lahore (77pc), Jhelum (75pc), Gujranwala (74pc) and Gujrat (71pc).
The map shows that there are nine districts having literacy rate between 60 and 70pc, 11 districts have literacy rate between 50 and 60pc and nine districts have literacy rate between 40 and 50pc. Rajanpur is the only district that has not been able to rise in literacy indicators and still has 34pc literacy rate.
Although Punjab is the only province in the country that had created the literacy and non-formal basic education department, it is unable to bring about any drastic change in the literacy scene.
The Punjab government has also been fervently observing enrolment campaigns for the past many years but the target of enrolling children in schools remains stagnant at over four million. Quite interestingly, it has enrolled some 3.8 million children so far. Neither the number of children in public as well as public-private schools is increasing nor is the number of out-of-school children in Punjab decreasing, remarked an educationist.
Dr Baela Raza Jamil says the literacy indicators are quite depressing as no literacy movement has been witnessed in the province. Pakistan is supposed to achieve at least 80pc literacy rate under the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 but even the advanced province like Punjab hardly sees the target being met.
It is a challenge for Pakistan to improve its literacy rate and the situation demands that the government rethink the whole issue of literacy, she stresses. She also calls upon the Punjab government to look at the population explosion and take appropriate measures to control it.
The Punjab L&NFBE in collaboration with international agencies, while working with a vision of Literate, Learning and Prosperous Punjab, is implementing various projects to combat the menace of illiteracy but results are not encouraging at all. Its goal of achieving 100pc literacy rate in Punjab by 2020 will remain a distant dream.
The literacy department is currently running four projects: Punjab Accelerated Functional Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education Project (aimed at imparting learning to 487,640 children and adults in four years ending June 2016); Punjab Literacy Movement Project (aimed at raising the literacy rate in 36 model tehsils by 11pc on average in 40 months); Punjab Workplace Literacy Project (aimed at establishing 1,000 non-formal basic education schools at brick kilns in 11 districts for 30,000 learners by June 30, 2017) and Community Learning Centres Sahiwal (Division) Phase-II (aimed at imparting basic literacy in non-formal mode along with functional skill in three districts of Sahiwal division till Dec 30, 2016).
The Punjab literacy department has completed its Campaign for Enhancement of Literacy in four districts and Establishment of Adult Learning Centres and Non-Formal Basic Education Schools at Brick Kilns in Multan and Khanewal on June 30 last. It is yet to be known whether the department had achieved the stated goals or not.
In order to celebrate the International Literacy Day, the Punjab L&NFBE department is holding a seminar at the Childrens Library Complex on Tuesday (tomorrow).
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his message on the eve of the International Literacy Day, said: Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection.
ISLAMI Jamiat Tulaba Nazim-i-Aala Zubair Hafeez says the performance of public and private universities in the field of research and science is disappointing compared to international universities.
Speaking at an Idea Innovation Workshop at a local college, Mr Hafeez regretted that Pakistan was increasingly becoming a downloading nation.
THE Punjab Intermediate and Secondary Education boards committee has postponed the secondary school supplementary examination for 2014 due to high flood in the province.
The examination will now begin on Sept 20. The boards will upload the revised roll numbers soon. [email protected][SUP][/SUP]