A recent survey, released by UK charity Starfish Asia, highlights the dire state of education for the downtrodden Christian community in Pakistan.
Conducted in Pakistan’s Punjab province, the survey covered 604 schools for 85,000 poor children. It revealed that four out of five teachers have no teaching qualification, 10 per cent of schools have no blackboards, and 24 per cent of class-2 children have no textbooks, notebooks or pencils.
The survey focuses on low-cost, private schools which educate 5 million of Christian background in Pakistan. UNESCO has already highlighted the extent of the nation’s education crisis, saying that Pakistan has ‘some of the worst education indicators globally’. But this new survey is the first to focus on provision for the Christian minority in particular, where delivery is weaker still (Global Monitoring Report Fact Sheet, 2012).
Pakistan’s Christian community often faces severe discrimination in government schools and cannot afford costly private education. Teachers in these low cost or free private schools are paid as little as £15 a month, well below salaries in government schools. Yet the survey found teacher absenteeism levels was far lower than in public sector schools. Student absenteeism is much higher (48 per cent) — small surprise when most schools (86 per cent) have no electricity, lights or fans for much of the day.
Most of these low-cost, Christian schools are coeducational, with, in contrast to national figures, more girls than boys. Some 52 per cent of enrolments were girls. The Global Education Monitoring Report 2016, by contrast, recorded that in Pakistan no less than 70 per cent of the poorest girls had never attended school, compared with 40 per cent of boys.
Starfish Asia is a UK registered charity that works with partner Starfish Pakistan to help Christian community-based schools in the Punjab and Karachi. Together, they support 35 schools, with a total of more than 7,000 students (although there is a database of 700 such schools that need our help). Provision is given for the needy without discrimination. Starfish Asia also supports seven homes for orphans and the disabled, for whom there is little provision in Pakistan.