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Students Solidarity March: Key Issues And Concerns

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Sudents Solidarity March is observed on November 27. Over the week, students were again seen on the roads chanting slogans of their rights, which most of the people do not have. They raised their voice against discrimination in our education system, health, and an increase in unfortunate cases of sexual harassment of women in the educational institutions.

It is unfortunate and distressing to see that students are unsafe in educational institutions. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, only 5.07 per cent of Pakistan’s 102 million women are able to complete university education. Under the guise of mentor-ship, professors exploit and assault such female students. Such students remain silent due to the fear of failing in examinations and societal pressure. The female victims are also unable to find a voice to raise their concerns and pain. We have seen several cases where females were shot by their family members when they tried to raise their voice against harassment.

Quality education has become a dream in the country. Most of the people are deprived of this uncompromising right. It is an obvious and an unfortunate fact that Pakistan has been educationally backward for a long time. It was ranked 113th out of 120 countries in UNESCO’s Education for All Education Development Index.

Pakistan has the world’s highest population when it comes to children who are not attending school. Public sector expenditure on education is barely 2 per cent of GDP which is very abysmal. However, we hoped that the incumbent government will bring changes in the education sector. A cut in the budget for the Higher Education Commission (HEC) eclipsed everything else on the education scene of Pakistan in 2019. Before the budget was announced, the HEC had undertaken an extensive assessment exercise according to which the estimated requirement for the higher education sector in the fiscal year 2019-2020 was Rs 103.5 billion. But the higher education’s apex body was allocated Rs 58.50 billion under the recurring grant which was lower than the HEC had received in the previous fiscal year i.e., around Rs 66 billion in 2018-2019. Similarly, for the development budget the HEC was allocated Rs 29 billion against a demand of Rs 55 billion. With an ever increasing population and very scarce resources, the educational budget is unable to complete the required tasks.

Moreover, healthcare system care of the country lags behind and often ignored from powerful segments of the country. Government is expending only 0.4% (50 billion PKR) of GDP on health. Whereas, almost 78% of the general population pays out of their pockets for medical treatment. Health Workforce indicates insufficient human resource. There are approximately 1:1300 Doctor-Patient Ratio and 1:2.7 Doctor-Nurse Ratios which is dreadful as recommended by WHO. Organization and Service Delivery in Pakistan indicates that there is an absence of programs for non-communicable diseases at the provincial and federal levels. The regulatory arrangements for medicines are unsatisfactory. There is a lack of proper health diagnostic facilities and medical education. In particular, there is an absence of health information-related institutions. The students have no other option but to take their concerns and challenges to the streets so the concerned authorities can address and resolve them accordingly. That is why the students broke are seen on the roads.

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Naya Daur