‘Education is the most powerful
weapon which you can use to change the world’ – Nelson Mandela
The importance of education is undeniable. It is a movement from darkness to
light. In the socioeconomic scenario of today’s world, education is the key to
open the doors of development and opportunities. It is hard fact that anyone
having basic reading, writing and arithmetic capabilities are more likely to
cultivate and procure other imperative life skills which are inevitable for a
skillful and productive life in this exceedingly competitive realm.
A recent visit to Skardu was filled with a pleasant revelation for this scribe.
The visit was undertaken as a leisure trip to the land of beautiful to witness
the beautiful landscapes and become spectator to the astounding beauty on the
face of the earth and experience the unmatched magnificence of the Northern
Areas of Pakistan. The broken roads and the rural setting of the city and
absence of infrastructural expansion clearly spoke of the underprivileged and
flouted reality. The splendid mountains and the landscapes were more than
compensation for the broken or under construction roads.
A roadside slogan painted on one of the rocks of a mountain caught my eye which
read,“Bacha hoyabachi, taleemdilaoachi”. Translated as “whether it’s a boy or a
girl, provide them with good education.”
It was a sponsored advertisement that may be termed as a rock chalking in
relation to the wall chalking we witness in the Punjab, Sindh or other areas of
the country. We have known for long that seeking education is mandatory for
every man and woman and that every boy and a girl has a right to basic education
but sighting such a mantra on a region so far-flung was a pleasant shocker.
Another similar message painted on the rock was ‘meragher, mera school’, that is
“my school, is my home.”
Though these were sponsored messages, yet they related to the ancient times when
religious teachings and life wisdoms were carved on rocks by religious Moguls.
Such carved rocks of Budha can even be found in this region, and one
specifically in Skardu. It kindled a thought whether this painted tagline is
just a selling message by the seller or are these slogans really making a
My thoughts were still submerged in how good the captions were, when I saw
little girls, with covered heads and books in their hands reading in middle of a
field in a village beside the road. It looked so serene and picturesque.
Furthermore, I passed countless groups of children of ages 6 to 16 with books
and uniforms as they were returning from their schools.
With the current low literacy rate of Pakistan, these and similar catchphrases
on the roadside reiterating the prominence of education and its irrefutable
importance, sensed like a ray of hope not only for this region but also felt
assuring for an optimistic prospect of Pakistan. As revealed by the economic
survey of Pakistan, Pakistan’s literacy rate has dropped from 60% to 58%.
Various factors can be held responsible for this decline but it is alarming for
a country like Pakistan to bear such low literacy rate.
As per the statistics acquired from the Gilgit-Baltistan Department of
Education, there are a total of 1,926 schools out of which, 1,401 are primary
schools, 304 are middle schools, 198 are high schools and 23 schools are
providing education up to higher secondary level. Out of these 1,926 schools,
878 are for boys, 529 are for girls and 519 are providing mixed education to
both girls and boys. Out of these 529 coeducation schools, 517 schools are
primary level education institutions.
Out of these 1,926, 583 are in Gilgit region – with 215 in Gilgit, 227 in
Ghizer, 47 in Hunza, and 94 in Nagar. While in Baltistan region, there are total
852 schools out of which 297 are in Skardu, 278 in Ghanche, 126 in Shigar and
151 in Kharmang. In Diamer-Astore region, there are 491 schools out of which 323
are in Diamer while 168 are in Astore. These figures are accumulated statistics
from the public sector schools managed by the provincial government, public
sector schools managed by federal government, Army, GB Police, Pakistan
Bait-ul-Maal, and private sector schools.
In Gilgit-Baltistan region total enrolments of the students in all sectors is
reported to be 322,166 approximately. Out of all the enrolments, the percentage
for boys and girls is 55% and 45% respectively. The district wise admissions
reported out of total enrolments, 44% are in Gilgit region, 40% in Baltistan
region and 16% in Diamer-Astore region. Similarly, in Baltistan region, out of
all the enrolments 53% are boys and 47% are girls. While in Diamer-Astore, the
ratio of boy-girl enrolment is 70% boys and 30% girls.
The statistics showed a promising trend of progress whereas in 1981 the literacy
percentage of boys was 23% and girls only 3% in the area. As per the ASER survey
of 2015, for the age group of 6-16, the enrolment rate is 85% of which Astore
92.8%, Diamer 47.9%, Ghanche 90.2%, Ghizer 96.9%, Gilgit 88.2%, Hunza-Nagar
97.6% and Skardu 81.3%.
The high literacy rate and high ratio of girls going to schools for basic
education is very inspiring and encouraging for this region. However, there are
only two universities in the province, Karakoram University and recently
operational Baltistan University. The prospects of higher education are not much
available and students have to go to universities in other provinces for
engineering, medical and other professional studies.
Nonetheless, the current setting as witnessed, stamping the importance of basic
education is promising to open gateways to higher education availability in the
region in the near future. Undoubtedly, young students of these areas are going
to be a supporting stake for the advancement of Pakistan, and are going to be
actively contributing towards Pakistan’s prosperity and development.
The idea and dreams embedded in the hearts and minds of the locals through these
wonderfully worded wall chalking and advertisements is an initiative that would
bear very progressive and promising outcomes. Education creates dreams; dreams
of betterment, dreams of progress and dreams of tomorrow. These dreams of
personal growth are catalyst for motivation and ascending steps for collective
success. If only these dreams are painted all over the country, and it becomes a
national manifesto, there is no doubt that we will rise way above our problems
and tread towards a stable and developed Pakistan. As in words of Malcolm
X:Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who
prepare for it today.