Nearly Half of Pakistani Christian School Children Have No Shoes, 25% Don't Have Clean Drinking Water: Survey

(Photo: Reuters/Mian Khursheed)A girl attends a class at a makeshift school on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, April 7, 2014.

A new survey has revealed that half of the hundreds of low-cost schools for Christians in Pakistan have no playground, about 15 percent of the students do not have notebooks, and a quarter of primary and middle schools lack useable drinking water.

The survey, commissioned by an education charity, Starfish Asia, also found that 13 percent of the schools it surveyed had no toilets for children, and around half had no separate facilities for staff.

 The survey, first reported by World Watch Monitor, was conducted with 604 schools, nearly all of which were co-educational with 52 percent girls.

It found that 1 in 10 high schools had no blackboard in the classroom, and that only 23 percent of high schools had access to the internet. Further, only about 5 percent of primary and middle schools had a library.

Furthermore, 45 percent of class 2 students had no footwear.

"The Christian Schools Survey carries an urgency that cries out for the attention of educationalists, philanthropists and donor agencies, and gives insight into a deprived world that many Pakistanis, let alone other authorities, are unaware of," said the survey report.

Article 25-A of Pakistan's Constitution ensures "free and compulsory education to all children of aged 5 to 16 years." Of the 182 million people in Pakistan, it is estimated that about 5 million are Christian.

"While the government has failed to provide schools that welcome its citizens — and while the churches have often failed to provide schools that its people can afford — local entrepreneurs have had to fill the gap," the report said.

It lauded "an army of men and women with initiative, drive and passion to do something for their own people."

"We admire these courageous entrepreneurs," the report went on to say. "Without qualified teachers, they have employed unqualified teachers. When they could not afford adequate facilities, they have used inadequate facilities. When they had no books, they taught without books. It is a community that is showing extraordinary courage and determination to build a future for their children."

The charity says it focuses on Pakistan's Christian community, "which forms a sizeable minority enjoying equal constitutional rights with the rest of the population, yet living on the fringes of society, marginalized from the mainstream and often deprived of basic social provisions."

Christians are often treated as an outcast or "sweeper" community and subject to severe discrimination that alienates many from acceptable access to education, healthcare and justice, the charity adds.