By- Ghulam Tahir
Pakistan is a thickly populated area, like wise the population in Gilgit Baltistan is also rising accordingly. Therefore the institutional arrangements for quality education to youth can not meet the demands of the present and future challenges .It is known that Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates also in this region and the situation is even worse in the rural areas especially for the female population. According to 1953 estimates the literacy rate was 53% while it has grown well in recent years especially on the female side in some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan. Since 1965 the successive Governments could not achieve the goal of universal primary education mainly due to a number of factors including rapid population growth and the limited resources being spent on education. Primary education in this country is characterized by low enrolment and high drop-out rates. The number of schools in some rural areas is less while there are sufficient schools in some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan.
There are schools for girls in some areas but in some places parents do not consider girls’ education is important and some times boys are pulled out of the schools. However the girls are more eager to continue with their education, though not always allowed. Despite Government recent efforts to increase the accessibility to basic education by making it free, a huge proportion of children are dropped-out of schools as education is found to be expensive for parents to afford.
Quality of education in terms of physical facilities is not only important in retaining them in educational institutions but also critical in attracting out of school children. Level of physical facilities available at most public and private educational institutions is dismally poor. There is therefore, need to ensure availability of all basic infrastructure and facilities at all educational institutions and levels, particularly at the basic level and provision of more advanced technological facilities like computer ,audio video, toys in addition to a well placed library of books is equally essential.
Keeping in view all these synergies Govt. and the private educational institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan have setout plans and proposals not only to enhance the capacity of the institutions through trained staff but also endeavor to achieve the target of 100% literacy rate and also the adult literacy rate to its optimum level by 2025. Gov. of Pakistan is currently reviewing its long term educational direction through proposals i.e. vision 2025 and vision 2030, supported by a range of policies included in the white paper on National Educational Policy (December 2006). Looking on these National policies, the Education Department Gilgit-Baltistan also decided in 2005 to frame its own education vision and long-term strategy.
The main thrust of this strategy is to improve the quality of education in Gilgit Baltistan and out line the following main objectives:-
Construct a “road map” for the education sector in Gilgit-Baltistan which is responsive to its unique situation encompasses the various strands of education and establishes priorities;
Ensure good articulation with the key elements of national educational policy making it more contexts specific to the requirements of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The policy thus set out may guarantee in raising the quality of education and expanding access to education particularly females. Some of the sub-strategies are briefly discussed below:-
Free and compulsory primary education by 2015. • All out of school children in formal and non-formal education by 2025.
Early childhood education (ECD) classes in every primary school or community by 2025. • Scholarship for all needy families’ to matriculation by 2025.
All schools and colleges upgraded on need basis by 2025.
Special education centers at tehsil level by 2020.
Technical/vocational and polytechnic institutes in each district by 2015.
Establishment of Medical, Engineering, Veterinary, Forest and Agriculture colleges by 2020.
Inter colleges at Tehsil level and Degree colleges in each District by 2015.
Libraries in all schools and ICT centers in all secondary schools by 2025.
This is a proposal in hand and Govt. will give a thoughtful consideration for implementation as early as possible. There should also be some solution to youth unemployablity which is not only frustrating them but pushing them to negative side.
Gilgit Baltistan like other parts of Pakistan has a youthful population .According to a statement half of the population is under the age of 20 and three out of four Pakistani households contain one or more young person of age 10-24 years .According to an estimate 2004 there were 61 million children under the age of 15, another 18 million adolescents between the age of 15-19and 16 million youth aged between 20-24 years, another estimate says there is 70% youth population who are under 35 years age. This demographic situation provides our young people with an extra ordinary opportunity to compete in what ever sphere they chose.
The Govt. and the Civil Society (NGOs) should join their hands for the best utilization of this huge resource for nation building and protecting the emotional and physical health of the youth, their skill based education, provision of recreational facilities, employment and above all incorporation of self confidence, motivation and courage to move forward. The challenges, constraints and opportunities, the young people face, vary from region to region and culture to culture from forced early marriages to increased poverty resulting from adjustment policies from armed conflicts to lack of opportunities. For many bread and butter is problem, for others lack of education or poverty are major constraints in life. But no body denies that the youth, where ever they are, need to be redirected to strive for larger well being and prosperity of their country and the area.
The youth of G.B like any other part of Pakistan face a number of problems among them are unemployment, poverty ,lack of resources and training, required education etc. it is now that the society has changed enormously and the communities in different areas have established their own systems of schooling and higher education institutions privately .The basic task is that of raising a responsible, constructive and healthy, youth who enter their working life with their confidence and enthusiasm .
The crux of all this discussion and deliberation gives an idea “who will bell the cat” means who will address all these issues and challenges. On the main front there is Govt. and on the other side there are civil society institutions and the communities. Among the civil society organizations when we talk about education and training to make the youth of the area educated and trained is the Govt. and the AKDN institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan. Among them the most prominent are AKES, AKRSP, AKCSP working in a holistic way at global, regional and local level .there are some other organizations working at regional and local level, one of them is Rupani Foundation (RF) committed to train unemployed youth in Gem stone cutting and polishing, the other sphere of its contribution is early childhood development (ECD) centers in Gilgit and Ghizer.
Every body knows that God has gifted Gilgit-Baltistan with natural resources like land, water, minerals (Gems and semi precious stones) Forest and Wildlife, Natural landscapes (Biodiversity) etc. It has been mentioned earlier that Govt. according to its budgetary provision is doing its utmost efforts though its projects to serve the people but NGOs are also putting their energies to help boost new sources of income , value added products and employment opportunities for a growing and increasingly literate population especially youth both in the farm and non- farm sectors .AKRSP has changed a medium term out look(2011-2016) to address the challenges and opportunities in the years to come on putting the communities on the development of strategic resources of the area on the public and private sector agenda, including Hydropower ,Responsible tourism ,Agro-processing and Minerals, Horticulture etc. Creating and strengthening public private partnership (PPP) and institutional mechanism to deal with common challenges including social protection of the poor and vulnerable, youth development etc. AKRSP has also designed a proposal in “Enhancing Employability and Leadership for Youth” (EELY) program will seek to address the commonly expressed concern by youth under two major sub-themes: Employability and Leadership. According to the forgoing discussion the conclusion could be, “how to educate youth and how their employability can be ensured”.
Basic education is must for all. Students (high flyers) who are financially sound can opt for higher and advanced education but the students who can not further continue their education should be given technical training in different fields of their choice and put to earn their live hood and prepare for their off- springs to give good education and make the country a prosper.
Some of the fields where training can be imparted and employment opportunities can be created could be as under:-
Land i.e. barren land to be linked with water channels.
Water: Irrigation, Hydropower.
Minerals: Gems, Semi Precious stones (Cutting and Polishing).
Agriculture: on-farm and of-farm, Horticulture etc.
Live stock and Fisheries.
Poultry and Bee Keeping.
Timber: Furniture, Wood Industry, cottages industries etc.
Business: Handicrafts, basket weaving, cloth weaving, off season vegetables, thread-net products, Rugs and Carpets.
There is a huge stock of raw material in crude form in Gilgit-Baltistan. The only task is to produce value added items and put to sale on a higher price .The available HR is required to be put to work and earn for their own and for the country.
Institutions like Rupani Foundation have already opened training centers in G.B besides early childhood development centers (ECD) for the specialized education of prenatal and 0-3 year’s babies along with their mother, grand mothers and grand fathers. Education Foundation (EF) Gilgit-Baltistan has also been established with its core and District level committees to co-ordinate with Govt. and civil society organization for the promotion and improvement of education activities in Gilgit-Baltistan. Education Foundation Gilgit-Baltistan will have close linkages and collaborative work to remove hurdles in the society to boost technical education to create skillful and technically sound standards to support the area not only in reducing the unemployability but also to cope with energy crisis and communication skills.