By Maureena Thompson, staff editor Combating increasing terrorism is of utmost concern in Pakistan. Yet the country’s neglected and suffering educational system is of equal threat to its long-term stability. As reported this month by the New York Times, many public schools purposefully bombed by the Taliban have yet to be rebuilt by the Pakistani government. Replaced by large tents with no air conditioning or running water, classrooms in these poorest of affected regions are lacking in supplies and rife with student frustration.
According to a PBS Frontline report, only about 40% of school-aged children in Pakistan attend school. The Pakistani government is aware of its need for better schools, as is the international community. As part of an initiative to improve education in the country, the United States has pledged 7.5 billion dollars in civilian aid to Pakistan through the Kerry-Lugar bill, which will be implemented over the next five years.
Whether this aid will alleviate the current situation remains unclear. In a culture where corruption is the norm, there is often a huge disparity in Pakistan between intention and action. Whether it is tied up in complex disbursement channels, diverted to other projects, or simply used ineffectively, much of the money meant for civilian aid fails to reach the general public.
What is clear is that Pakistan, as a whole, needs to invest more aggressively in the future of its youth. The only thing sustaining many of these makeshift schools is community activism, led by ingenuity and dedication. As easy as it is to see the situation as futile, then, it is also possible to see the promise of grassroots initiatives in improving education.