Under the Umbrella of the #GirlCan campaign, AzCorp Entertainment recently held a webinar titled, “Learning Emergency and the Plight of Public Education in Pakistan.”
The discussion was attended by notable Pakistani education activists and focused on mitigating the impact of the pandemic on students’ ability to learn. The experts shared an array of solutions to overcome the various challenges impacting Pakistan’s education sector. The session concluded with a list of policy asks and budgeting priorities that will be shared with the government to achieve more effective outcomes.
The webinar was co-hosted by Madiha Rehman, Director Programs, AzCorp Entertainment and Malala Fund Champion for Girls Education and Hajra Chhotani, Research and Brand Lead at AzCorp Entertainment.
One of the panelists, Ms. Baela Raza Jamil CEO of Idara-e- Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA) and a Public Policy Specialist raised her concerns regarding the mental health of millions of school children and the lack of child-friendly measures around remedial learning.
She emphasized that such measures were not just required for students hailing from marginalized backgrounds but for all the learners across the country in the backdrop of the recent pandemic-related learning losses.
Baela Jamil stressed the need for a complete transformation of the education system and for the development of a post-pandemic education plan that engaged all the stakeholders and created an environment to uplift girls’ education.
She further added that just as NCOC was taking lead in decision-making and the tracking of COVID patients, similar methods should be used to trace and track learning and assessments of Pakistani students.
Amongst the panelists was also Amima Sayed, an education activist. She spoke about structural changes happening in school systems worldwide and the need for Pakistan to follow suit.
Amima mentioned the need to realize the difference between urban and rural learning processes and how individual focus on students could not be replicated in a system that was entirely distance-based or hybrid.
She said that numerous learning solutions already existed but the government needed to be serious about proper implementation of whichever solution it chose to adopt – whether in terms of global best practices or local interventions.
It was also pointed out during her conversation that while enrollments in public schools increased because of the pandemic’s financial toll on households, however, the government school system did not have the necessary capacity to effectively accomodate this huge influx of new students.
Speaking about the issues impacting girls’ access to secondary education, she stressed the need for developing learning material related to menstrual health and hygiene.
Adding value and actionable points to the discussion was Ms. Zehra Arshad who is the National Coordinator for Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) and a Malala Fund Education Champion.
She focused on the need for cluster-based budgeting, i.e., bringing greater participation and hence transparency while developing education budgets at the district and provincial levels. She also stressed the need to involve members of the Standing Committees for School Education in the budget-making process to make it more targeted and effective.
A number of important demands were put forth for the 2022 education budget.
The government was asked to invest its own funds in solutions rather than being donor-dependent.
Another important ask was to invest in students’ health, nutrition, and early childhood development.
Disability, diversity, mental health, and related empathy trainings for teachers were also asked to be prioritized.