It may not come as a surprise to most of us that in Pakistan there are 25.02 million out-of-school girls and boys between the ages of 5 and 6 and that Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world after Nigeria. Currently there are 52.91 million children between the ages of 5 to 16 years in the country but worryingly only 27.89 million children go to school.

According to a recent report, approximately 66 percent of children are out of school in Balochistan, 51 percent in Sindh, 47 in Punjab, and 34 percent are out of school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.According to a report released by Alif Ailaan, a non-governmental organization working for the promotion of education, more than half of the out-of-school children are girls:11.4 million boys go to school whereas 13.7 million girls go to school.This reminds us that gender discrimination is rampant across the country. Girls are mostly out of school in Fata followed by Balochistan. In FATA,78 percent girls are out of school while in Balochistan more than 72 percent girls are out of school.

Here the question arises: why are so many girls and boys out of school in the country despite the fact that Article 25-A of the Constitution orders the state to provide free and compulsory education to all the children aged five to 16 years?

The answer is: neither the provincial governments nor the Federal government are making concerted efforts to enroll out-of-school children at any rate because the problems that keep students out of school are neglected instead of being addressed.

A nine-year-old girl named Hajira has a strong desire to become a teacher but unfortunately, she is among the many Pakistani children who are out of school. Her parents are very poor and both of them work and thus, she gets no one to drop and pick her from nearby government primary school.

Sharif, at the age of 13, has recently completed primary education in his village where he clinched the first position in the class. However, he does not go to school anymore; there is just one single school in his village that is a government primary school. To continue with his education he has to go to the government middle school, which is very far away from where he lives. His parents are not rich enough to hire a car for him. He has no option but to say goodbye to his studies.

Waqar, a 12-year-old boy, works at his father’s tea shop all day. He wishes he were a student and would go to school like his relatives. Luckily, a government middle school and a private school exist nearby but sadly, he has never been to school. The reason he is among the children out of school because his father forces him into work in order to boost the family’s income.

Anila, Rukasr, Rizwana, Rabia and Adnan all are siblings and under the age of 16. At present none of the siblings go to school. Gone are days when three of eldest siblings were studying in a nearby government primary school but soon they had to quite their studies and help their mother with household chores. They have been expelled just because their father is a cobbler facing great difficulty in providing two times meal to their children and thus it is very hard for him to continuously buy school uniforms, shoes and bags for three of his children.

Likewise, millions of children face problems but they find themselves neglected and hopeless. As a result, they resort to giving up their education. When it comes to the out-of-school children, the government wishes to see a rapid decrease in the number of out-of-school children but the government is loath to address the problems that keep children from school.

It must be remembered Pakistan spends around 2 percent of its budget on education, which is the lowest compared to the other countries of South Asian region. For example, India spends 3.8 percent of the GDP on education, Bhutan spends 5 percent,Maldives spends over 10 percent,Bangladesh spends 2.5 percent, Sri Lanka spends more than 2 percent and Nepal spends 4.7 percent of the GDP on education. Though Pakistan has the most out-of-school children and facing more education related problems as compared to other South Asian countries, yet the government has a strong disinclination to increase the GDP on education.

It is very saddening to note that in Pakistan, less than 65 percent schools have drinking water facilities, 62 percent have a latrine, 61 percent have a boundary wall and 39 percent have electricity. Sindh is on top of the list with 60 percent of schools having no water facilities and 40 percent schools without electricity, followed by Balochistan. As far as the opinions of experts are concerned, lack of basic facilities does keep students away from schools. On the other hand, approximately 9800 schools have been damaged in Sindh and Balochistan owing to floods, which resulted in forcing 410,000children out of school.Constructions of new schools for these affected children should not always remain a distant dream.

There are 17 countries that have recently reduced the number of out-of-school children and promoted their literacy rate.Nepal is also placed on the list of thesecountries. In 2000, 24 percent of children were out of school in Nepal but the rate reduced to 1 percent in 2013. Therefore, Pakistan can be the next country to reduce the number of out-of-school children if federal government and provincial governments should place great much emphasis on addressing those problems that pull helpless children from schools. In addition, provincial government of Balochistan should make efforts for the construction of more girls’ schools in order to enroll more out-of-school children since there are around 13,000 government-run schools in Balochistan, astonishingly only 2,500 of which are for girls.