While the state holds the primary duty to provide adequate education for its subjects, in certain instances when it fails to discharge its obligations, responsibility falls onto others to take up the challenge. The central need is to go beyond merely educating the wealthy elite or other exclusive sections of society, and to address education in a much broader and more inclusive way. As such, the aim should be to develop independent and critical thinkers who can form a sustainable basis for a healthy and thriving society.

Sir Michael Barber, one of the UK’s leading educationalists , has been tasked by the Pakistani government to implement large-scale changes that will transform the country’s educational system. He writes: ‘Pakistan has been through a precarious time … it’s still a fragile place, with major security threats … [and] if the education system fails for another 10-20 years, we could see it going on a huge downward spiral … But an educated Pakistan could be a thriving democracy. It could see economic growth comparable to India or China.’

Furthermore, the lack of education in Pakistan is playing a central role in exacerbating the country’s ongoing problems of poverty, corruption, terrorism and political instability. As the sixth most populous country in the world, with about 170 million citizens, it seems obvious to point out that the provision of good quality secular education could help the beneficial transformation of the country. If the Pakistani state by itself does not have the resources to combat all of the educational problems, and if private schools cater only for a privileged minority, thankfully there have been efforts by charitable organisations to step in to meet the challenge.

As one leading example, the Society for the Unwell and Needy (SUN), a UK-registered charity founded in 1997, has built the SUN Academy Schools for the poorest children in the 18 million people who live in Karachi’s metropolitan area.