Rising Political Figure in Pakistan Says Illiteracy Is a “National Emergency”

According to Pakistan’s English-language newspaper The Nation, Imran Khan, the leader of a rising political party in Pakistan, plans to treat the country’s dismal literacy rates as “a national emergency” if his party comes to power.

Kahn is proposing “a twin track approach” that will expand primary education to universal access while simultaneously “tackl[ing] the adult illiteracy problem with all available resources.”

In a blog post published by The News Tribune, Kahn calls literacy “a fundamental human right” that is “essential to social and human development.” and explains why it is necessary to address both adult and children’s literacy in order to raise Pakistan’s overall literacy rate:

Tackling illiteracy starts with achieving universal primary education so that Pakistan’s 25 million children, who at present do not go to school, will have an opportunity for free, accessible, excellent primary education in a system that is uniform throughout the country.  Educational institutions will be devolved to the town level with management at district and sub-district levels.  Curriculums will be improved, teacher training radically increased and a new school building program will be initiated nationwide.

At the same time, I will create a special task force to pursue reaching full literacy in Pakistan by 2025, with a state sponsored mass literacy campaign for adults, making the best use of available resources. This will be an organised campaign using private and public sector resources, with major public media input and with programmes planned with relevance to poor and rural communities.

Kahn also outlines the economic case for improving his country’s literacy rate:

I have vowed to increase the education budget from 2.1% to 5% of the GDP. Illiteracy in Pakistan is costing an estimated $5.86 billion or 1.2% of GDP. The one-off investment in a successful literacy campaign will have diminishing costs and increasing returns over ten years, increasing the country’s GDP and lifting the country out of its current cycle of poverty, discord and violence.