The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will set Pakistan’s education sector back $2 billion, a new study that analyzed the effects of the disease on the country’s economy has revealed.

With fewer than 2,000 deaths and less than 100,000 infections, Pakistan’s losses have remained relatively limited so far, but widespread easing of social lockdown and a people bent on denying the existence of the disease means the worst may be yet to come. Pakistani healthcare experts have already warned of an uncontrollable rise in cases and overwhelming of the frail healthcare system if strict measures are not in put in place.

For its part, the government appears to have let the people be. Prime Minister Imran Khan has stated that the government could not lock the people down with force, adding that the cost of lockdowns was far too great for the marginalized sections of the society who were struggling to get their hands on a day’s meal.

The latest study on the effects of COVID-19 on the economy has been conducted by the KPMG, predicting that if worse turns to worst, almost 125 million people, more than half of the county’s population, could slip into the clutches of poverty.

The study also did a sector wise analysis of the economy, predicting that education sector could emerge as one of the biggest losers. Accoridng to UNESCO, at least 46.8 million Pakistani learners have been affected by institutional closures due to the pandemic.

The report estimated that between 15 and 17 million low wage Pakistani workers could lose their jobs as a result of the shrinking economy, of which 2 million could be from the education industry, whose contribution to the GDP could fall by $2 billion in the current fiscal year.

Apart from the KPMG predictions, an independent analysis run by IBM for a leading private university in Lahore reported that 50% of students enrolled higher education institutions could default as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country is currently facing several challenges in providing learning opportunities to students at home. One major hurdle in the provision of education during the pandemic is internet connectivity. The KPMG report highlighted that remote areas were most affected by poor internet connectivity, which was creating several hindrances for online learning.

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