Since the beginning of humanity, the learning process has been considered an integral part of survival and development. Humans mainly sought to meet basic survival needs, so they looked for different strategies and tools, such as cave shelters, protective gear, cultivation, etc. Attempts to transfer existing knowledge and experience can be seen as the foundation of education. If you look at the duck worth pages of history, you can see that education is always responsible for the socio-economic development of society and therefore occupies a niche to satisfy basic needs. Despite the important role of education in human development, the development, financing, and construction of education remain a challenge, especially in developing countries.
In the world ranking, Pakistan has second-highest numbers with currently around 22.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 16, are out of school. UNESCO estimates that 133 million girls do not attend school worldwide, of which 34.3 million are primary school level girls. The age of primary education is 30 million and the age of secondary education is 67.4 million.
In Pakistan educating a girl particularly in rural areas is a bigger challenge. It is also important that girls learn in school and feel safe. They must get all the prospects and equal opportunity to complete all levels of education and attain knowledge and skills which are necessary to compete in the current job market. Girls’ education is a strategic development priority. Educated women are better acquainted with nutrition and health, have fewer children, are late to marry, they have chosen to be mothers whenever they want.
But we see there are many obstacles to achieving and completing women’s education in this country. The majors one’s are:
Poverty: is the key factor that determines the future of children particularly girls in Pakistan. Poor families do not have sufficient funds to cover school and related expenses. According to the world bank, Poverty in Pakistan is up from 4.4% to 5.4%. So, the poor families prefer to invest on their son’s education rather than girls. Studies show that girls face multiple barriers, such as low family income, live in remote or disadvantaged areas, have disabilities or belong to ethnic minorities, don’t have access to work.
Violence: Girls in remote areas have a higher risk of sexual exploitation and gender-based violence, such as abuse and harassment. Not only it severely damages their mental and physical health and it also increases the dropout rates and lowers the frequency of new admissions. Teenage pregnancies can be the result of sexual abuse and exploitation. Girls who are victims of these exploitations can face severe stigma and discrimination from the community. The growing humiliation associated with gender inequality can cause the girls to leave school at an early age and never returning.
Child marriage: Early age marriages is another big reason for teenage girls to leave their education incomplete or drop out of school. Usually, these early marriages lead to teenage pregnancies and an increase in responsibilities., A total of 119 cases of child marriages were reported back in 2020 reported by UNESCO. They also experience more violence from their partners. As a result, children’s education and health, as well as their ability to earn a living, are compromised. In fact, girls with secondary education are one-sixth more likely to marry than girls with no education. A report published in 2017 by [LSM1] suggests that every day more than 4100 underage girls get married.
Scarcity of schools, insufficient infrastructure, insecure environment: There is an insufficient number of schools particularly in rural areas of Pakistan to meet education. Along with that many schools do not have basic facilities like water, electricity, and sanitation. Approximately 30,000 ghost schools are existing in Pakistan. Furthermore, many schools do not have certain facilities which provide a safe and secure environment for the children especially girls. For example, lack of curved fences, lightweight walkways, or versatile designs. Lack of a suitable environment can be a major obstacle for girls to attend regular school.
Improper training of teachers and insufficient supply of teaching materials which lead towards gender biases: In many situations, curricula and teaching methods do not meet the special needs of girls. Furthermore, teachers are not well trained to reduce gender bias in the classroom. Or they might not get support. They cannot teach or respond to gender-based violence or other problems that girls may face in school. Furthermore, educational and training materials and programs can strengthen undesirable stereotypes about girls and women.
Covid-19: has also created new challenges for the education system, particularly for girls. The shutting down of schools for longer terms and inadequate long distance/online learning opportunities has worsened the situation for school-going girls. Many of these schools will restart after some time but dropout rates can rise and a certain percentage of girls may not return to school.
There are many goals concerning education and gender equality to achieve according to Pakistani and supranational declarations. There are some improvements, but there are still big challenges to overcome. Equal opportunity measures appear to be economically and morally legitimate, but Pakistani girls continue to face school barriers even after they are unable to participate fully in the labor market. No serious action was taken to eliminate them. The Pakistani government has not developed an adequate education system to meet the needs of children, especially girls in the country. The main causes are an inadequate investment, lack of schools and/or infrastructure, cost of education (including alternatives), corruption, and poor quality of accessible education. It is also difficult to change the stereotype that girls have to be at home to help in the household instead of studying. Cultural patterns endure and are extremely difficult to change within one generation, if at all.
Therefore, education frameworks and policies focus not only on admission to primary school but also on learning outcomes. If girls and women are not included, the country is unlikely to close the gender gap, hampering growth and development.
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The author Neha Nasir is a graduate of International Relations from National Defence University.