THE inability of children to read and understand simple story or text by the age of 10 is referred to as  learning poverty.

According to UNESCO and the World Bank, children should be able to do so by the end of their primary education. Their failure to read and write indicates serious issues within the education system.

More than half of the population of low and middle-income countries [LMCs] live in ''learning poverty, while nearly 80 percent of the population in poor countries cannot read and write.

The learning poverty in the Developing World is anybody's guess, say it is around 70 percent which can aggravate further after the ongoing pandemic. Covid-19 has worsened the situation of Pakistan as many people have lost their jobs due to lockdowns, and have stopped sending their children to school.

GIRLS are more vulnerable in this scenario because their parents are less concerned about their education.

During the pandemic, low-income families usually prefer to send their male children to school as they will be their future bread-winners. Online classes are not  feasible for everyone as many students, especially girls, do not have personal gadgets or Internet connections, and are not allowed to use mobile phones because of social pressure.

Parents belonging to the low-income group are helplessly moving their children from private to government schools as they are unable to pay the fees. They are sending their children for vocational training so they can take up blue collar jobs and bring financial stability to the households. This can increase child labour in the developing countries.

The overall literacy rate say, in Pakistan, 59.13 percent which is declining yearly. Female literacy rate is less than that of male at 47 percent.

In Pakistan, the literacy rate is defined as the ability to read and understand simple text, and write a simple letter with numerical basics. There are degree-holders who cannot even read and write in their own regional languages.

Pakistan is far from achieving the sustainable development goals [SDGs]. The people of the country are deprived from their basic rights and more than half of population is unaware of these SDGs.

Pakistan unfortunately has the second highest number of out-of-school-children in the world. Illiteracy, ignorance and inequality are some of the chronic issues afflicting the country.

With 1.52 billion out-of-school-children worldwide, it will be difficult to accomplish the SDGs till 2030 as they are not just about putting children into schools, but also providing them with quality education, better environment with clean water and sanitation which can contribute to their wellbeing.

Learning Poverty is as important as financial poverty, and it is the responsibility of the state to focus on it.

All governments should invest in human capital. It should be made mandatory for everyone to know the basics of sciences, humanities and maths, and they must be able to read and write in their native languages.

The World Students Society thanks author Kimal Sikander, Karachi, Pakistan.


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