Pakistan has one of the largest percentage of children out of school, with 22.7 million children not attending any school, religious or other. The Covid pandemic created further problems as many schools moved to tele-schooling but that was not possible for those who did not own a smartphone or laptop.
According to an investigative report by The Guardian, “more than half of the population now own a smartphone but these are concentrated mainly in the more urbanised provinces of Punjab and Sindh, so online schooling benefits a minority of pupils.”
Online learning thus is “not an option” for most of the population. According to Marvi Soomro, founder of the education charity IEI Pakistan, “as incomes have been hit during the pandemic, fewer families can afford to keep their children in school, because they need them to bring in extra money. “Regions like Gilgit-Baltistan have been completely isolated due to lack of technology access. Families can no longer earn through tourism and have had to sell livestock to make ends meet. It’s often difficult to convince rural populations of the need for education because they don’t see an immediate gratification in it.”
According to Aanya Niaz, an education researcher, “there is not enough understanding of the diversity of educational experiences across Pakistan. Digital penetration varies greatly, across provinces, urban-rural divides and socioeconomic classes, along with the impact of gender as well, none of which can be taken into account with blanket initiatives that are meant to be applied on a national level.”