Educating parents indispensable to battle polio in Baluchistan

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By Muhammad Ishaq Nasar

Despite tall claims and repeated campaigns on the part of concerned quarters, the crippling virus is yet to be eradicated from the country. Pakistan is one of three countries including Afghanistan and Nigeria battling the crippling virus across the globe. This year, Pakistan has confirmed 21 polio cases from most of the marginalized and illiterate parts of the country.  A strong surveillance system indicates
that the virus continues to circulate in Pakistan and remains a threat to children. Polio is
a crippling and a deadly infectious disease. But, if one understands deeply and looks
beyond the physical world, it will be found that illiteracy is a far serious problem than
Polio. Polio might be capable enough to destroy an individual’s life but illiteracy can
destroy generations silently.
The literacy rate in Pakistan, ignoring its quality, is arguably 60%. Even if accepted, It
indicates that 40% people are illiterate. Most of the population lives in rural areas:
villages. The rural population is uneducated because it prefers livelihood over schooling.
Why send a child to school where he earns nothing as compared to a garage where he
can earn RS.1500 per month.
Illiteracy indirectly opens the door for crime. Crime in Pakistan is present in various
forms. Organized crime includes drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, black
marketeering, political violence, terrorism, abduction, etc. illiteracy might not be
responsible for all these crimes but it definitely is playing a crucial role. Daily life is
harder for illiterate people, so they are more likely to feel frustrated and dissatisfied.
Furthermore, people with low literacy skills usually have equally inadequate problem
solving skills. As a result, they often feel isolated and vulnerable, and many of them feel
like outcasts. An outcast has no moral meter and would do anything to satisfy his
needs; be it stealing, robbing or even murdering.
Illiteracy also leads to poverty. Education equips one with the required skills and
provides opportunity for employment. There are an estimated 25 million children in
Pakistan who are not going to school. A person who is unable to read and write may
experience a hard time in finding a job especially in a world where the market demands
well-trained employees who can cope with an industry driven by technology. Even if
they somehow get a job, many illiterate people are underpaid. They are unable to earn
the required income and in many cases perform a lot of duties with little pay. Without a
reasonable source of income, taking care of the dependent family members, including
sick ones, may prove to be a gigantic task mostly.
Child marriage is another grave problem that may come about due to illiteracy. 21% of
girls in Pakistan are married before 18 and 3% are married before the age of 15.
According to UNICEF, Pakistan has the sixth highest number of child brides in the world
– 1,909,000. Parents fail to recognize the benefits of taking children to school to learn
how to read and write. Instead, the girl child may be forced into early marriage. She is
considered a means of raising money through dowry payments to support the rest of the
family members. In a way, the girl child is viewed as a property. They are traded to help
the family earn money.
The issue of illiteracy can cut across generations within a family. It can become cyclic in
such a way that even the third or fourth generation family members suffer the same

fate. Intergenerational Illiteracy mainly comes about because education is given little to
no value in the family setup. The children that come along will thus see illiteracy as the
norm and not make any effort to learn how to read and write.
Most importantly, illiteracy has a direct impact on human health. It prevents people from
being able to read the instructions on a medicine. It means that people are less likely to
know facts about AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases such as Polio.

It is a known fact that education serves as the backbone for the development of nations.
It is only education that turns a burden of population into productive human resource.

Muhammad Ishaq Nasar… MBA, is an educational researcher, teachers trainer, motivational speaker and author… he can be contacted on twitter @Isaac12023174

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