I would like to congratulate Baela Jamil and all of the staff and participants on the fifth anniversary and launch of the ASER Annual Report for Pakistan. This trailblazing report has been instrumental in bringing to the forefront issues of out-of-school children and quality of education and learning in Pakistan. I am particularly pleased that this year’s report has taken the innovative leap to include special consideration for children with disabilities.
ASER is the largest citizen-led, household-based initiative in Pakistan, working at the grassroots level to collect data, spur a national conversation and instigate action on education. This year the report reflects the realities of over 279,427 children in 165 Districts, 4,698 rural villages and urban blocks and 93,093 households across Pakistan.
The statistics paint a bleak picture about the realities children face, which we all must work together to change. One-fifth of rural children are out of school – and 15% have never seen the inside of a classroom. Girls are constantly the victims of discrimination with enrollment levels hovering at about one-third in public and private institutions in rural Pakistan. Moreover, we learn that even after reaching class three, the vast majority of children still are unable to read a simple story in their native language.
What I find inspirational about the ASER report is that it is not just a report – but instead a call to action across the nation. Through the household surveys, a quarter of a million individuals in Pakistan signed the “Up for School” petition calling upon governments and international leaders to work together to ensure that the right to education is realized for every child. The data in this report fuels local and national discussions about the quality of learning, exclusion from education and the lack of investment in our children that must be changed if we desire bright futures for the children and youth of Pakistan.
With the turn of the New Year and the launch of the ASER report, I hope that 2015 will be a year of action for children’s right to learn in Pakistan and across the globe. I hope you will join the participants of the ASER report and stand “Up for School.”