PESHAWAR: “These two hundred rupees can be a reason many girls from poor families are still managing to continue their studies,” says Mahnoor, a 9th grader, whose father is a schoolteacher. She says that she saves this monthly stipend and uses it to buy stationery.
However, she says education is free but there are many girls in her class whose parents cannot even afford to buy stationery, calculator, shoes and uniform for them. These girls use the Rs200 monthly stipend, given by the provincial education department to encourage female education, to buy such items.
“I keep saving this stipend. When I need something like a book or dictionary I buy that with this money. I don’t have to ask my parents,” says Urma, a student of 9th class at Government Centennial Girls High School in Notia locality of Peshawar. Her father is a shopkeeper.
Mahnoor, who also lives in Notia, says that many poor parents already are doing an extraordinary job by sending their girls to schools amid security concerns and unfavourable circumstances. Usually parents of poor background don’t spend on a girl as compared to a boy as she is usually married off at an early age. Those, who want to educate their girls, find financial constraints and accessibility to school in the conservative culture a challenge.
However, Anwar Sultana, the principal of the school, says that enrolment has improved in her school and this monthly stipend seems to be one motivational factor. Some girls use this money to buy their stationery and others use it for paying fare to come to school without burdening their parents.
Principal of govt school says enrolment has improved
“Many maids send their daughters to my school since their daughters not only get education but also get stipend which is like their pocket money,” says Ms Sultana.
The elementary and secondary education department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been running the stipend programme since 2006. A visit to a government model school in Peshawar, one of the low-net enrolment rate districts, showed that girls mostly from humble background were finding this ‘pocket money’ very useful. It helped them to fulfil their educational needs without burdening their parents.
Officials associated with the programme said that it was being run for some years now but a major overhaul in terms of monitoring and efficiency to achieve its objectives was also required.
“After the disbursement of the second installment in a month or two, the government for the first time would assess the impact of this programme too,” said an official.
Giving details of the programme, the official said that the Girls Stipend Programme had three different streams. One was provision of stipend in seven districts of the province and later the stipend programme was rolled out to the entire province. Under this programme, girls enrolled in grades 6th to 10th were eligible to receive a monthly stipend of Rs200 per month in two installments. In 2013-214, around 432,000 girl students in 23 districts received the stipends excluding Torghar and Kohistan.
Officials said that second scheme was initiated specifically for Torghar and Kohistan which targeted girls enrolled in grades one to 10 in Torghar district and grades six to 10 in Kohistan.
Under the programme, Rs15,00 per month were given to primary school girls and Rs2,000 per month to girls in grades six to 10 as stipend, officials said.
“The reason for the increase in the amount of money for this specific programme in the two districts is the geographical disadvantage of the area, the neglect of the areas for decades and lack of proper educational facilities there,” said an official.
A special initiative programme launched in 2013-2014 is third stream under which stipend is provided as a special incentive to girl students of primary schools in seven districts with a low net enrolment rate. These districts include Hangu, Peshawar, Battagram, Dir Upper, Swat, Shangla and Tank. “The purpose of this gender specific programme is to remove gender disparity in education in Khyber Pakhunkhwa,” said the official.
Published in Dawn February 3rd , 2015