What is 1.59 million worth? As a mere number, the value seems pretty ordinary. But if it comes to the fate of this many people, it becomes quite another story. The value is the number of children that the Punjab government’s latest school enrolment drive failed to get back to schools.

Per estimates, Pakistan has over 23 million children between ages of five and 16 that remain out of schools and the country’s most populous province, Punjab, remains at the forefront of this catastrophe.

But despite what we believe were sincere efforts, the Punjab school enrolment drive 2018 missed its set target of enrolments by a staggering 1.59 million. That could well mean 1.59 million future households in which at least one or both parents could be illiterate, struggling to find decent paying jobs and offering an even grimmer of a chance of being educated to their offspring. A vicious cycle that sometimes becomes extremely hard to break.

According to data for the Punjab school enrolment drive 2018, the provincial government intended to enrol as many as 13.55 million children into various grades. Per the data, the provincial government has been successful in enrolling 11.95 million children – or 88.21%, into schools for the academic year. However, over 1.59 million children or 11.79% could not be enrolled into schools during the campaign.

Low Performers

The lowest achievement of the set targets can be observed in the southern part of the province, with Muzaffargarh leading with 135,444 children who could not be enrolled during the campaign. This means the district authorities failed to enrol 27.83% children from the targeted enrolment of 486,718. Other districts that missed the target by a sizable percentage were Rahim Yar Khan, which achieved a success of only 78.1%, Bahawalpur with a success rate of 78.2%, Bahawalnagar with a success rate of81.2%, Rajanpur with a success rate of 81.8% and Bahawalnagar, DG Khan and Okara with success rates of 83.3%, 83.7% and 84.7%, respectively. Combined, these eight districts failed to enrol over 657,000 children in schools, making up 41% of the target missed.

On the contrary, the district that fared best in the latest Punjab school enrolment drive 2018 was Jehlum, which achieved 96.4% of its set target. District authorities set a target of enrolling 171,448 children in the current campaign, managing to get 165,348 children enrolled.

Attock was next best with a success rate of 95.4%, followed by Lahore at 94.9%, Gujranwala with a success rate of 94.6% and Gujrat with a success rate of 94.3.

The campaign, called the Universal Primary Enrolment (UPE) Campaign 2018, was launched in early 2018 with an aim to enrol 95% of out-of-school children. However, the current campaign could only achieve 88% of its set target. If government estimates are to be believed, there were a total of 14,264,603 known out-of-school children across Punjab, which 95%, or 13.55 million, were targeted.

However, given the campaign results, 16% – or 2,311,059 – of the known school-aged children remain out of school in Punjab. Only the Almighty knows how many more school-aged children were not even accounted for in the official estimates of out-of-school population.

Primary enrolment was also the worst performer, as out of around 2.5 million target for the year, only 1.94 million or 78.32% was achieved, leaving a total of 538,351 children of primary school age not enrolled in primary schools of the province.

Similar to the overall trend, South Punjab performed below par in the primary enrolment targets and Muzaffargarh had the lowest enrolment rate among all the districts at 63.66%.

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