PAKISTAN is a clear example of a country that has been struggling to achieve gender equality in education. According to an estimate, about 13 million girls in Pakistan are out of school; this may be the total population of some countries.
Only 68 per cent of girls aged 15-23 years can read and write, compared to 83pc of boys of the same age. Girls make up only 42pc of secondary school students, and only 10pc of them complete secondary education. In many regions of Pakistan, girls go to primary school, but they cannot pursue secondary education owing to the non-availability of secondary schools in their areas.
Why is there a crisis in the domain of girls’ education in Pakistan? The answer is quite complicated. Historically, the girls have never been encouraged to seek education in South Asia, especially in Pakistan, due to cultural taboos and barriers.
Things have changed in the last two decades to some extent and people have started thinking more rationally. Many parents have begun to support their daughters for education. However, there are other issues to tackle. Unfortunately, girls living in rural areas face challenges in accessing educational facilities and in many cases they are victims of poverty.
The challenges to girls’ education are not limited to rural areas, however, and metropolitan cities like Lahore have no dearth of such challenges. Approximately 150,000 girls are out of school in Lahore alone.
Some of the main challenges that impede girls’ access to education are lack of hygiene facilities at schools, lack of transport, growing poverty, wrong perceptions, gender discrimination, early marriages, lack of educational infra-structure, absence of safe environment, and physical disabilities.
Where education is available and accessible, the biggest challenge is that of the quality of education. The policymakers and relevant government bodies need to revisit the policies related to girls’ education.
There is a strong need for launching awareness initiatives on the matter, especially, but not exclusively, in rural areas. Better awareness is one way to curb the discrimination against girls’ education. The government needs to provide incentives to poor families in the form of financial assistance and monthly scholarships to send their girls to schools.
To overcome the dropout rate among girls, it is important to provide safe learning environment so that the parents may feel encouraged to send their daughters to schools.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2022