With all children in school, two tiny towns in Balochistan are Pakistan’s most literate

In this file photo taken on Oct. 25, 2012, Pakistani schoolgirls attend a class at a government school in Peshawar. According to UNICEF, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children, with an estimated 44 percent of kids aged between five and 16 excluded from education.(AFP)
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Updated 20 July 2020

With all children in school, two tiny towns in Balochistan are Pakistan’s most literate

  • Literacy rate in Balozai and Khanozai is more than 98 percent, while in the whole of Pakistan it stands at 70 percent
  • Already in the 1930s, it became every Balozai and Khanozai parent’s priority to have their children complete at least secondary education

PESHAWAR: Two tiny towns in Pishin district, where Balochistan province borders Afghanistan, have long ago made it a point of honor to send their boys and girls to school. Today, they have the highest literacy rate in the whole of Pakistan.
With a population of about 20,500 people, the twin towns of Balozai and Khanozai together have 48 educational institutions — primary and secondary schools, two colleges and a government-run polytechnic institute.

A classroom is decorated in the primary education section of Government Girls Middle School (GGMS) in Khanozai. (Photo courtesy: GGMS)

“In 2015-16, I conducted a survey on children aged five to 10 years, and found that 100 percent of them were enrolled in schools,” Khair-un-Nisa Panezai, principal of the Government Girls Middle School (GGMS) Khanozai, told Arab News.
She said the enrollment rate for girls was equal to that of boys, which she attributed to the region’s long-standing efforts to educate all children, initiated by Alama Abdul Ali Akhunzda, widely known as Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan of the Panezai tribe, who established the first school in 1905 — for both girls and boys.
According to district education officer Habib Alam Panezai, the literacy rate in Balozai and Khanozai is 98 percent, which is more than double their province’s average. In Balochistan, according to UNESCO’s January 2020 data, only 44 percent of people are literate.
For the whole of Pakistan, the literacy rate is currently 70 percent.

Students of Government Girls Middle School (GGMS) in Khanozai smile as they browse books at their school on Oct 14, 2019. (Photo courtesy: GGMS)

Muhammad Saleem Panezai, principal at the Government Boys High School Balozai, believes — based on a survey he conducted two years ago — that literacy in Balozai and Khanozai is even higher than 98 percent.
“During that survey, we selected some households of different living standards as a sample and we had got astonishing data and I can claim that the literacy rate is more than 98 percent,” he said.
Educationists give credit for this success to elders and religious leaders who, as Pishin district-based pedagogue Razia Panezai told Arab News, have been encouraging parents to send their children to school and forced the government to develop proper education infrastructure in the region.
“Our two Khanozai and Balozai tribes have a sort of competition to excel in education,” she said, “And today, even our female students study abroad in Malaysia and China.”
While Pakistan is struggling not only to send children to school but also to keep them there, Khanozai and Balozai have the lowest drop-out rate in the country, which stands at about only 2-3 percent, according to the district’s education department.
Abdul Ahad Kakar, chairman of the Ulasi Committee Balozai, said that in the 1930s local leaders established the Balozai Social Organization (BSO) which motivated people to educate their children and made it become every parent’s priority to have their offspring complete at least secondary education.
“In Khanozai and Balozai, our criteria for a literate person is one who has obtained a secondary school certificate or matriculation,” Kakar said.
While the two tiny towns have excelled at fulfilling their children’s right to learn, for the rest of Pakistan the picture remains bleak. UNICEF lists it as a country with the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children, with an estimated 44 percent of kids aged between five and 16 excluded from education.

South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

Updated 23 January 2021

South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

  • South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players
  • The South African player beleives Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi can pose problems for his team

ISLAMABAD: South African cricketer Faf du Plessis believes spending months in a bio-secure bubble could soon become a major challenge for players.

“We understand that this is a very tough season and a tough challenge for a lot of people out there, but if it’s back-to-back-to-back bubble life, things would become a big challenge,” du Plessis said during a virtual news conference on Saturday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, cricketers have to adhere to strict procedures for an international series. In countries like Pakistan, international games are being played in empty stadiums and players' movement confined to just their hotel and stadiums.

Du Plessis is one of those South African cricketers, along with captain Quinton de Kock, to have experienced life in a bubble over the last few months. He played in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates and home series against Sri Lanka. Now he has a two-test series in Pakistan, starting Tuesday in Karachi, followed by the second test at Rawalpindi.

“The main priority is to play cricket, to be out there doing what we love instead of being at home … so I think that still remains the most important thing. But I think there would definitely come a point where players would struggle with this (bubble)," du Plessis said.

“If you look at a calendar of the last eight months, you’re looking at about four or five months in a bubble, which is a lot. For some of us (being) without family, it can get challenging. Right now, I’m still in a good place. I’m still feeling really motivated and driven, but I can only speak for myself.

“I don’t think it’s possible to continue from bubble to bubble to bubble, I’ve seen and heard a lot of players talk about it. I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

The South African team practiced at the National Stadium -- the venue for the test opener -- for the first time on Saturday. Before that, the visitors had been practicing at a stadium close to the team hotel for the last four days where they played intra-squad matches.

“For now, (I'm) enjoying the four walls of my room and then the pitch outside where we can get to do what we love,” du Plessis said.

The 36-year-old du Plessis, who has appeared in 67 test matches for South Africa with a batting average topping 40, will be playing his first test in Pakistan since making his debut against Australia in 2012. Pakistan last hosted South Africa in 2007. In 2009 international cricket’s doors were shut on Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore.

Du Plessis has played seven test matches against Pakistan that included two in the UAE and five in South Africa.

Du Plessis is South Africa’s most experienced player touring Pakistan, but wasn’t sure what type of wickets will be prepared for the two tests.

“I think that’s possibly the biggest thing that we are unsure about,” he said.

“As a team we try to prepare for everything and anything, overprepare, spin conditions, reverse swinging ball … if I have to call it, I probably said I think that wickets will be a bit more subcontinent like than it used to be back then (in 2007), so spinners would probably be more a little bit more in the game.”

Du Plessis has picked fit-again Pakistan all-format captain Babar Azam and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi as the two players who could pose problems for the tourists. Babar has regained fitness from a fractured thumb — in his absence Pakistan lost both the Twenty20 and test series in New Zealand.

“Obviously, having Babar back is massive for them,” du Plessis said.

“Afridi has been getting a lot of wickets, so probably someone like him would be pretty dangerous.”