Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday launched the Ehsaas Education Stipends programme for "deserving" families so that they could send their children for education.
Addressing the launch ceremony for the programme in Islamabad, the premier said that 20 million children not going to schools was a "major issue" for the country, and regretted that due importance was not paid to their education, adding that it was important to rectify the issue.
He said a country's biggest assets "are its people" and that not providing them education was akin to "wasting your asset".
"By denying the opportunity for upwards [social] mobility, you do a great injustice with that segment," he said.
The stipend initiative, the premier said, would serve to "incentivise and encourage" children to attend schools.
The prime minister particularly highlighted how more girls were out of school than boys. "We did not give importance to education but especially, and unfortunately, we did not give importance to the girls' education," he said.
The prime minister said that a well-educated woman was of greater benefit to the society than a well-educated man because she "teaches her kids and changes the entire system of her household [such as] health and wellbeing of children, which have a lot of societal impact".
"The West says that we do not want to educate our girls but this is not the case. I've visited every region of Pakistan [...] and nowhere did I go and see such households where parents wanted their girls to not study," the he said.
PM Imran said other issues, such as ease of access, contributed more to a lack of girls' education than the will of the parents. He identified a dearth of schools and faculty as the driving factors behind the menace.
"Parents from everywhere ask me to open schools for girls so it is not that they don't want to educate [their daughters]," he said. "It was the government duty to facilitate them that was missing till now."
The prime minister also praised the incorporation of information technology (IT) in the programme to ensure transparency and ward off corruption.
"Through [the use of] IT, we will attain control over most of these issues and, in a very transparent manner, [distribute] these stipends to children and incentivise them and monitor them," he added.
Stipend kept higher for girls: PMO
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office, the stipend will be given to "deserving parents", who can ensure 70 per cent attendance of their children in schools.
"In this programme, the amount of stipend has been kept especially higher for girls. School stipends are for primary, secondary and higher secondary education," it added.
A press release said that the programme would be rolled out nationwide across all districts.
It said that at the primary level, the boys will get quarterly stipends of Rs1,500 and girls Rs2,000; at the secondary level, the boys will get Rs2,500 and girls Rs3,000; and at the higher secondary level, boys will get Rs3,500 and girls Rs 4,000. The stipends will be issued every quarter.