The writer is an
analyst and the
President of all
After the 18th amendment to the constitution, Pakistan has a highly decentralized structure of government means that many decisions regarding education policy are made at the subnational level. Pakistan was described as among the world’s worst-performing countries in education, at the 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development. The new government, elected in July 2018, stated in its manifesto that nearly 22.5 million children are out of school. Girls are particularly affected. Thirty-two percent of primary-school-age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared to 21 percent of boys. By grade six, 59 percent of girls are out of school, versus 49 percent of boys. Only 13 percent of girls are still in school by ninth grade. Both boys and girls are missing out on education in unacceptable numbers, but girls are worst affected. There are high numbers of out-of-school children, and significant gender disparities in education, across the entire country, but some areas are much worse than others.
Lack of access to education for girls is part of a broader landscape of gender inequality in Pakistan. The country has one of Asia’s highest rates of maternal mortality. Violence against women and girls—including rape and domestic violence, forced marriage, and child marriage—is also one of the problems, and government responses are inadequate. Many of the barriers to girls’ education are within the school system itself. Pakistan spends far less on education than is recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in its guidance on education.
An upward bottleneck exists as children, especially girls, get older. Secondary schools are in shorter supply than primary schools, and colleges are even more scarce, especially for girls. Schools are more likely to be gender-segregated as children get older, and there are fewer schools for girls than for boys. Many girls are pushed out of continuing studies because they finish at one school and cannot access the next grade level. There is a need to establish more exclusive schools, colleges, universities, vocational and technical training centers only for girls’ education to ensure more graduation of girls from primary to middle school and secondary school.
Unfortunately, In both government and private schools, to some extent use of corporal punishment and abusive behavior by teachers is also one of the reasons for the lack of access to education for girls. One more reason is that so many children in Pakistan do not go to school that there is no enforced government expectation that children should study. Pakistan’s constitution article 25-A states, “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.” However, there is no organized effort by the government in any province to ensure that all children study. This violates international standards Pakistan has signed up to which require that education be free and compulsory at least through primary school.
Both boys and girls are missing out on education in unacceptable numbers, but girls are worst affected. There are high numbers of out-of-school children, and significant gender disparities in education, across the entire country, but some areas are much worse than others. Lack of access to education for girls is part of a broader landscape of gender inequality in Pakistan.
Aside from the barriers to education within the school system, girls also face barriers in their homes and in the community. These include poverty, child labor, gender discrimination, harmful social norms, insecurity, and dangers on the way to school. For many parents, the most fundamental barrier to sending their children to school is poverty. Many children, including girls, are out of school because they are working. Sometimes they are engaged in paid work, which for girls often consists of home-based industries, such as sewing, embroidery, beading, or assembling items. Other children—almost always girls—are kept home to do housework in the family home or are employed as domestic workers. Unfortunately, some of the harmful-social Norms are also played their own role in gender discrimination and insecurity, and dangers on the way to school. Some families do not believe that girls should be educated or believe girls should not study beyond a certain age. Attitudes regarding girls’ education vary significantly across different communities. Many people, however, described growing acceptance of the value of girls’ education, even in conservative communities; the government should be encouraging this change. Sometimes girls are removed from school as they approach puberty, sometimes because families fear them engaging in romantic relationships. Other families fear older girls will face sexual harassment at school and on the way there and back.
Child marriage is both a consequence and a cause of girls not attending school. In Pakistan, 21 percent of girls marry before age 18, and 3 percent marry before age 15. Girls are sometimes seen as ready for marriage as soon some families are driven to marry off their daughters by poverty. Staying in school helps girls delay marriage, and girls often are forced to leave school as soon as they marry or even become engaged. Many families and girls cited security as a barrier to girls studying. They described many types of insecurity, including sexual harassment, kidnapping, crime, conflict, and attacks on education.
Pakistan can, and should, fix its school system. The government should invest more resources in education and use those resources to address gender disparities and to ensure that all children—boys and girls—have access to, and attend high-quality primary and secondary education. The Federal Government of Pakistan should Increase expenditure on education in line with UNESCO recommended levels needed to fulfill obligations related to the right to education. GOP should also Strengthen oversight of provincial education systems’ progress toward achieving parity between girls and boys and universal primary and secondary education for all children, by requiring provinces to provide accurate data on girls’ education, monitoring enrolment and attendance by girls, and setting targets in each province, by strengthening with the goal of ending gender disparities in all provinces.
Provincial governments should endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political agreement to protect schools, teachers, and students. There is a need to direct the provincial education authority to make girls’ education a priority within the education budget, in regard to construction and rehabilitation of schools, training, and recruitment of female teachers, and provision of supplies, to address the imbalance between the participation of girls and boys in education. There is also a need to strengthen the enforcement of anti-child labor laws. Until government schools are available, provide scholarships to good-quality private schools for girls living far from government schools. Provide free or affordable transport for girls students who travel long distances or through difficult environments to get to a government school. Abolish all tuition, registration, and exam fees at government schools, and provide poor students with all needed items including school supplies, uniforms, bags, shoes, and textbooks. There is a need to explore options for increasing attendance by girls from poor families through scholarships, food distribution, or meal programs at girls’ schools.
Each school requires to develop and implement a security plan with attention to concerns of girls including sexual harassment. All forms of corporal punishment must be Prohibited in schools and ensure that all schools have adequate boundary walls, safe and private toilets with hygiene facilities, and access to safe drinking water. Develop a plan to expand access to middle and high school for girls through the government education system, including the establishment of new schools, and strengthen the system for monitoring and quality assurance of all schools, not only for government schools but also private schools. We must understand that Girls’ education can play an important role in reducing harassment, early marriages and abuse of girls.
In these circumstances, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation is playing its important role by providing education to 50% of girl students and by providing also job opportunities to more than 1.5 million female teachers in its 20700 private schools across the country for women empowerment. Moreover, the private sector can also play a very vital role if the government declares amnesty and tax exemption for investment in the education sector. Through this amnesty and tax exemption, the private sector will invest in the education sector by establishing new schools, colleges, universities, technical & vocational training centers especially for girls and out-of-school-children and will also share the government’s responsibility by providing equal opportunity of education and jobs without any gender discrimination.