Educationists and experts stressed on rehabilitating and rebuilding the education infrastructure destroyed in the recent floods to minimize the learning losses during a cross-sectoral conversation on “Defending Education Against Climate Change.” The conversation was organized virtually by the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training’s STEAM Policy Unit. Strong public-private partnership models, development and implementation of a comprehensive remedial and accelerated learning program, and international commitment to rebuild the destroyed educational infrastructure on war footing were some of the solutions put forward by the experts to ensure nimble access to education for the displaced children.
“From our conversations with the Punjab Education Department, we know that it takes around Rs. 12 million to rebuild one school. This means we need a whopping Rs. 216 billion to rebuild 18,000 schools destroyed in the recent floods.” This sobering reality was shared by senior education expert and author of “Teachers, Bureaucracy, and Politicians,” Javed Ahmed Malik.
Focusing on the infrastructural damages and the looming specter of learning losses, international Education Activist, Moiz Hussain shared, “From the initial reports, over 3.5 million children have been affected by the floods. The biggest challenge we faced during the Covid-19 pandemic was the learning losses due to prolonged school closures. We are once again facing the same challenge since most school buildings are in no condition to accommodate students anytime soon.”
Drawing from past precedents of rehabilitating and rebuilding the education infrastructure after a natural calamity, Head of the STEAM Policy Unit, Salman Naveed Khan pointed out that the process was often considerably slow and even staggered. “The reconstruction of the last lot of schools destroyed in the 2005 earthquake was completed only last year in 2021. If we take this as a benchmark, it will take us 16 to 17 years to rebuild the 18,000 schools which were destroyed in the recent floods.”
The situation of girls during this time of crisis is especially vulnerable. With millions displaced and left shelterless, girls’ return to education, it is feared might be compromised in favour of early marriages and child labour. “If we don’t act swiftly, girls, as always, will have far bleaker chances of ever resuming education than boys in the aftermath of this disaster,” shared senior Gender and Climate Change Specialist, Afia Salam.
Multi-media journalist Amber Shamsi lamented the system’s inability to learn from the past. “It seems we haven’t learned anything at all from the earthquake in 2005 and the floods in 2010-11. We are once again racking our brains to reinvent the wheel when so many solutions can be extracted from the calamities that we went through less than two decades ago.”
The need to include climate education in the curriculum also came under discussion as an important long-term strategy. “If we do not teach our children about climate change, problem-solving and decision-making skills from an early age then we will never be able to protect ourselves from the catastrophic impacts of climate change,” commented television anchorperson Zarrar Khuhro.
Fozia Parveen, Assistant Professor at The Agha Khan University, however, stressed that climate education should not merely be taken as information about natural disasters, and pollution, but should come hand-in-hand with practical skills which can effectively help a community protect itself during a crisis caused by climate change.
Adding to this, Arooj Khalid, Senior Project Officer at Science Fuse shared, “During our science activities in schools in Balochistan, female students eagerly told us about the impact of climate change on their lives. If provided the right information and skills at the school level, these students can help their communities rise above the challenge.”
The recent floods that have left almost 70% of Pakistan’s landmass submerged under water, displaced close to 33 million people, and taken thousands of precious lives have also left the country’s fragile education system in tatters.
STEAM Pakistan is an initiative of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, which aims to enhance secondary-school-aged students’, especially girls’ access to science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths education across the country.