How Afghan refugees’ children in Karachi are being deprived of secondary education
Education in Pakistan is a matter of province. This provincial difference is why admission rules differ all across Pakistan.
While in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees’ children are free to continue their education, in Sindh, they stand no chance of completing even secondary school.
Asma Rahimi, an eighth-grader Afghan refugee and a resident of Karachi, spoke to a media outlet and said:
I won’t be able to study ahead. This year will be my last year. I cannot study onward.
Rahimi’s family moved to Pakistan three decades ago. With the dream of becoming a psychologist, she joined the Allama Iqbal Public School in Karachi instead of the Afghani school. However, her dreams shattered when she realized that a de facto ban was in place, which precluded her from studying further.
To enroll in the ninth grade, Rahimi must possess a Child Registration Certificate (also known as Form-B). This form serves as an identity document for the children under 18 years and is a prerequisite for joining the ninth grade as per the Board of Secondary Education in Karachi (BSEK). Since refugee children cannot obtain the certificate, they have restricted access to education.
Prof. Saeeduddin, the Chairman of the BSEK, said:
In 2012, the Provincial Government made the possession of Form-B compulsory for ninth grade enrollment on the grounds that the immigrants would attain a Pakistani nationality based on their education credentials otherwise. For example, if an immigrant completes his matriculation from Karachi, he may ask for citizenship.
On the other hand, Rahimi’s sister studies at Syed Jamaluddin Afghani School in Karachi’s Al-Asif area, a school for refugees that offers tuitions up to grade 12. Since it is registered with the Afghan ministry of education, the school’s certification is not recognized by Pakistan.
A seventh-grader at Syed Jamaluddin Afghani School, Zahra Arif, said:
I want to become an engineer. I want to make houses for the poor. However, we are not allowed to get enough education. I cannot study here.
Syed Mustafa, the principal of Syed Jamaluddin Afghani School, said:
If anyone wants to study ahead, he or she will have to go to Afghanistan.
Rahimi states that they cannot go back to Afghanistan to study too as there are no schools and colleges, and everyone there is illiterate. Considering this environment, Rahimi’s father brought her back from Afghanistan because he wants his children to study and change society for the better.
Mustafa further revealed that many parents have to send their kids to religious seminaries to get any education as they are left with no other option.
Regardless of the facts stated, Muhammad Riazuddin, the Secretary of the Universities and Boards Department Sindh, said:
No regulation barring refugees from studying is in place in the province. Sindh is an inclusive province and ‘strongly believes in children’s right to education, which is not only enshrined in the UN charters but also in the constitution of Pakistan.’ The National Alien Registration Authority (NARA) cards give legal immigrants the right to access electricity, gas, and water connections and obtain an education. The same applies to Afghan refugees who have Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
Despite all the hindrances standing in her way, Rahimi is steadfast about her future:
I want to study. I want to become something in life.
However, the education restrictions present in Karachi effectively shatter the dreams of 60,000 Afghan refugee children residing in the city, who aim to change the world for the better.
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