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Rehnuma Book Launch
wRehnuma Book Part 1

wRehnuma Book Part 2

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PLP Thatta

Thatta PLP Centers complete the literacy program in its 18 Centers at Gharo, Dhabeji, Bhambore and Gujjo. The examination of three Rehnuma books held and 384 learners passed final examniation. The Certificate Distribution Ceremony will be held after Eid in Thatta. Congratulations to all, specially people of Thatta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE

by: Nisar A. Memon

 

JINNAH’S Pakistan, after 63 years, continues to remain overwhelmingly illiterate without any serious reflection or debate taking place in the national parliament, the provincial assemblies, the print and electronic media, think tanks, the educational institutions and political parties on the consequences of illiteracy.

Even the judiciary has not invoked its power to come to grips with this constitutional right. The fact that the Mundi Index of literacy rates us at 49.9 per cent and shows us at 182 amongst 201 countries in international rankings, with 63 per cent of the female population and 35 per cent of the male population unable to read or write in any language, does not seem to draw the attention of the high and mighty.

A nuclear-armed nation, with a hostile neighbor to its east and international forces occupying the neighboring country to the west, coupled with foreign intelligence agencies working to achieve their interests and anti-state elements destabilizing the country from within, must think of its national security by empowering its citizens with literacy.

Let us see where we stand in this regard. Literacy is typically described as the ability to read and write and UNESCO considers literacy as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts”. Pakistan defines literacy as the acquisition of basic skills of reading and writing. Let us take this simple definition of literacy to understand our challenge.

A major effort was launched by the Musharraf government in 2002. It established the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) at the federal level with its outreach to the provinces. It was funded uniquely by a separate organization, the Pakistan Human Development Fund (PHDF), mainly with national and international private donations and managed by its independent board.

The NCHD provided literacy through its now 120,263 adult literacy centres to 2.5 million adults, 90 per cent of them females. The NCHD estimates that almost 50 million people in Pakistan are illiterate, a figure more or less reflected by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics which cites the literacy rate for 2007 at 54.9 per cent. The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2009-10 says it is 57 per cent. No matter which statistic we take, we are faced with a stark reality.

We spend a dismal 2.1 per cent of our federal budget on education and low amounts on literacy. It can be said that education (and thus literacy) is a provincial subject. Literacy in our largest province Baluchistan comes under the Social Welfare, Special Education, Literacy/Non-Formal Education & Women Development Department whose proclaimed vision is “to provide better social facilities to socially disadvantaged people and to empower women”. However, it has not provided any data on its official website on the state of literacy in the province. The Economic Survey 2009-10 shows a literacy rate of 45 per cent.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa we find that there is a School & Literacy Department which is committed to providing access to quality education to all. There is no mention of the literacy rate. However, the latest available data indicates a literacy rate of 50 per cent.

In the commercial and industrial province of Sindh one finds that literacy is the responsibility of the Education & Literacy Department. It recognizes education as one of the most important pillars of government and stands for “strong policy actions for raising literacy to 100 per cent”. The department does not spell out when and how it will meet this target. The province appears heavily dependent on the NCHD, a federal institution, for its literacy program. The latest data pertaining to Sindh puts the literacy rate there at 59 per cent.

Moving to the most populated province, Punjab, one comes to the conclusion that all is not lost. One is pleased to see a history of concerted efforts, well-established programs, recognizable achievements and plans. Since 2002, the Punjab government has the Literacy & Non Formal Basic Education Department with its goal “to make Punjab literate by 2020”.

New initiatives have been launched in 2008-09. These include: strengthening capacity, the establishment of 300 adult literacy centres in jails, factories and brick kilns, mobile literacy programs, vocational training and above all an awareness campaign. They actively partner with national organizations like the NCHD and international organizations like the Asian Development Bank. The latest 2009-10 Survey puts the literacy rate in Punjab literacy at 59 per cent.

Pakistan’s Millennium Development Goal for the literacy rate is 88 per cent by 2015, while the NCHD’s is 86 per cent. Pakistan has made a clear commitment, yet ongoing efforts cast serious doubts on the achievement of this goal.

In the last Mundi Index, France with 99 per cent literacy ranks 40th, while China with 91 per cent ranks 105. Neighboring Iran at 144 has a 77 per cent literacy rate. Evidently, there is a correlation between literacy and development, literacy and international standing, literacy and stability.

If we want to be seen as a self-respecting and empowered nation with a democratic dispensation the only way forward is to make this nation literate so that all citizens can be empowered to take part in the nation-building exercise and stand guard against all internal and external challenges to the country’s culture heritage, economic independence and sovereignty. It requires strategies and plans to meet this national challenge with all stakeholders on board.
 

Published in Daily Dawn

14th June 2010

About Nisar A. Memon

 

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