“The Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Mr. Shafqat Mehmood and his entire team deserve huge congratulations for announcing the single largest increase in the federal education development budget in over a decade. However, with merely 10% of the development budget earmarked for school education, there is an immediate need to rationalize this division of funds.” This statement was made by Ms. Areebah Shahid, Executive Director Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA) in light of the recently announced education budget.
The federal government allocated a total of Rs. 140 billion for federal education for the fiscal year 2021-22, compared to the previous year’s Rs. 118 billion. A 44% increase was also observed within the education development budget taking it to Rs. 48 billion during FY 2021-22 compared to the Rs. 34 billion allocated for education development initiatives during the last two fiscal years. While 10% of the development funds will be spent on school education, 90% have been earmarked for higher education.
“Although, after the 18thAmendment the primary responsibility of the federal government is higher education, however the schools in the federal area also come under its purview,” pointed out Mr. Hisham Khan, Program Coordinator at PYCA. “An estimated 30,000 children remain out-of-school in the federal capital, making the current allocation of funds for school education inadequate to bring about any significant improvements in terms of greater enrolment, retention and improved learning among the most marginalized children.”
The need to prioritize school education has become all the more pronounced in the aftermath of the COVID-19 emergency. Recent data emerging from Pakistan points at a potentially large exodus of children, especially girls from schools owing to the financial strain experienced at the household level. At the same time, prolonged school closures have also contributed to huge learning losses among the most marginalize learners and any strategy to mitigate this situation will require additional and sustained funding over the next few years.
With these sobering realities threatening the educational future of thousands of the most marginalized children, the Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Mr. Shafqat Mehmood must empathetically review the situation and ensure that the educational needs of the most vulnerable young learners in the federal capital are not left unattended.