In the latest bid to attract children to attend school in Sindh, government schools will soon be providing free lunches to their students. While there is no doubt that crushing poverty and malnutrition forces parents to opt for madrassahs instead of schools – where free meals and education is provided – this initiative only aims to feed hungry children, not to provide them with quality education. Considering that Sindh’s education emergency was declared almost two years ago, one would have hoped the Senior Minister for Education would weigh the implications and effects of all initiatives carefully.

The time has long passed for the Sindh government to be relying on trial and error. A staggering 40 percent of the children of Sindh have never been inside a school. The alarming figure has stood at this number since a comprehensive report conducted by UNICEF on the state of children in Pakistan had come out in April 2015. So what is the government of Sindh done for these children in one long year? Decided to provide them lunch? Agreed to give a stipend of Rs 3500 per month to girls living in rural areas to encourage them to attend school? The Education Minister may sleep easy at night thinking he’s done his part to resolve the situation, but this is a far cry from the truth.

Long-term vision and political will is essential to change the very fabrication of the rural Sindhi society to make them understand the value of education. The issue is a deep-rooted one; they cannot break away from centuries of tradition, illiteracy and superstition to accept the unknown. A place where two-thirds of women are uneducated, mothers cannot be expected to wake their children in the morning to send them to a school that is a ruin, with teachers that refuse to show up, especially when the alternative of having their children fed and educated with the Holy word will at least keep their children off the streets.