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Education: the best tool for CSR

Published on 7th July, Edition 27, 2014

 

When it comes to troubles in Pakistan, probably the root cause of it all is education. Pakistan has a population of 180 million people with a median age of 21.5 years for both male and female. Based on literacy, which is defined as those who have attained the age of 15 and can read and write is estimated at 49.9 percent with male literacy at 70 percent and female literacy rate being 46 percent.

Pakistan only spends 2 percent of its GDP on education whereas neighboring countries e.g. India spends 4.1 percent with a literacy rate of 74 percent and Sri Lanka spends 5.5 percent of its budget on GDP with a literacy rate of 96 percent. It is evident that the more the government spends on quality education and training, the higher the literacy which leads to economic development. If ever one gets a chance to visit towns in Sri Lanka, it is encouraging to observe that even in villages with less than 100 people, their children wearing white uniforms go to school for education in addition to working on farms. Education seems to be the only solution, which could bring the country out of crisis and crime. Skills and crime is inversely proportional. If skillful workers are available and are capable of finding jobs, there would be no need of crime. In fact, crime in such instance would reduce.

Switzerland has the lowest crime rate in the world, and it is evident from the fact that Swiss universities are well renowned with literacy rate of 99 percent. If education is the solution, it must be mandatory for all. Considering the population of Pakistan, most being in poverty, children are forced to work to assist in household expenses. This is one of the reasons why children from poverty stricken areas do not go to school. There are no child labor laws and no government intervention, which would stop school going children from working. Children are often discouraged to attend school, by parents who themselves have never been to school. It is important that CSR initiatives be directed towards education, seen as grass root cause of Pakistan’s troubles.

Children in lower socio economic class who formulate the majority find themselves in an environment where basis necessities of life are absent. Stricken with poverty and lack of food supplies, most are forced to leave education and pursue a job which pays a minimum wage to support their parents. With time and age, some deviate and pursue a life of crime while others try to develop a skill which continues to pay them a minimum wage, enough to pay rent and put food on the table. With high inflation and consistent rise in price of basic commodities and foodstuff, those earning a minimum wage find themselves in high degree of frustration leading to revolt. Those who find it difficult to sustain a living can better their lives to education or acquiring skills through vocational training. The biggest challenge faced by Pakistan is to create an environment that fosters education and training with skills that caters to employment demand. Those who drift away from education at the back of wrong social circle find themselves in circle of crime. Criminals look for easy money which is why street crime is so rampant. The police needs to play a role to stop crime, unfortunately this is another area of concern. There was a recent report where a police officer used his official uniform and vehicle to kidnap people and charge ransom in dollars.

 

Responsibility resides with the government for not providing quality education and vocational training for improving such skills and making it mandatory across the board. Government schools and colleges are seldom provided funding. Students pursuing school and college education practically come only to collect their admit cards for their exams. Wide spread corruption exists, which is the reason why existing budget has never been used for development of schools and colleges. The operating condition of government controlled schools, colleges and universities show that neither the budget allocated for education in Pakistan is sufficient nor the utilization of allocated funds is done as required due to corruption leading to under and misutilization of recourses and budgets. Pakistan lacks quality vocational training institutes, which are instrumental to provide skills to those who are less fortunate and eager to attend schools. Vocational training is especially important for special people to make them productive resource capable of earning a wage. With change in technology and means of carrying out a particular task, vocational schools do not provide advance trainings as the instructors themselves lack training. With two-third of Pakistan’s population residing in rural areas, Pakistan is estimated to have 3,100 vocational training institutes, which could be instrumental in providing training to the rural community if budget allocated.

Since employment opportunities are further squeezed, younger generations who can afford mainstream education try to find opportunities elsewhere by moving abroad. Those who are left behind struggle to make ends meet and live from pay cheque to pay cheque. As more individuals are trained and pursue a job in line with their training, the success can be measured through reduction in crime rate and poverty. Once again, this cannot be seen in isolation since the government needs to provide avenues through development projects to create employment opportunities in line with those who are trained and skills acquired. Pakistan must make efforts to reduce the level of poverty through encouragement of education and training to assist the country lead towards a better tomorrow through its people who have the required skills to take on challenging opportunities and improve their standard of living. The more money is invested in education, the better it will be for the economy. Mandatory education will provide skilled workers and encourage an environment of learning. They say it takes one generation to make a difference; the difference can come with education. This was also the reason why the government recently ran series of advertisements on television under the tag line of “zara sochiye” giving live examples of people who changed their lives through education. CSR for education should be considered top priority.

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