Pakistan is an ideological state. Education has a history of playing a paramount role in sustaining the ideology of the nation (Siddique, 2012). Since nation comprises of genders yet the gulf of the gap between the genders is so huge that it seems unbridgeable. In Pakistan, the gender gap has made the country vulnerable to all the circumstances that are being faced in the education sector generally and at the secondary education level in particular. According to the reports of the World Bank, in 2018 the net enrolment rate of females in secondary education level was 34.184% against the primary enrolment rate that stood at 61.567%. On the other hand, the male enrolment rate in secondary and primary school was 76.272% and 67.575% respectively (World Bank, 2020). That makes the male’s ratio more than half of the female’s population in secondary schools.
The drastic decline in the female enrolment rate from primary to secondary level education is a consequence of many socio-economic and political orders of the country like urban-rural gap, inadequate school infrastructure, poverty, cultural practices, already existing illiteracy in the family, safety concerns, and access to school and the list goes on. Among all the problems poverty is paramount. In other words, all other problems are deeply embedded in the roots of poverty (Sathar, 2013). The rural population is poverty-stricken and more likely to face all the above-mentioned problems. According to the constitution 1973 the government is entitled to grant free education to children between the ages of 5 to 16. Yet we cannot see it being implemented as education expense does not comprise of fees alone it includes transportation, uniform, books, and other stationeries.
Education for women is also stigmatized by false cultural practices (Right to Education, 2020). People are of believing that educating women causes a decline in their fertility. They are taken out of school and married off so early for they are not considered as important as the male member of the family. The female students face difficulties when there is inadequate infrastructure like washrooms and water. This causes them to avoid going to school during menstruation and end up quitting school. They have to walk long distances to get to the school and face harassment and security issues in their way. All these factors contribute to the reduction in their enrolment rates and they quit by not even completing the primary level education.
We can relate the Mathew effect with this dilemma. The people who are educated themselves educate their children regardless of gender. Their children get higher education and good job increasing their living standards. While on the other hand, the illiterate family does the opposite that makes their life even vulnerable. Hence, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
But with the passage of time, one can see a positive marginal increase in the enrolment rate every year. For instance, the 2018 enrolment rate is higher as compared to 2017 and 2016 (i.e. 31.63 and 31.916 respectively). The government has initiated many programs to appreciate females to continue their education to a higher level for example the projects under the Ehsas program that would grant scholarships (Ehsas undergraduate scholarship program) and stipends (Kafalat program) to the females regardless of their religion and ethnicity or any other differences. Moreover, there are many NGOs and INGOs that are playing their crucial part too in the promotion of a sense of responsibility in the citizens by educating them and facilitating them in educating the females.
To eradicate this gap between genders, education itself is the only tool. By educating the people one can bridge this gap. Our country can only become successful when the females are left to play their parts and this part can only be played if they are educated. Hence, the government should spread awareness among the people about the importance of education and how our false cultural practices are eroding our nation, and how illiteracy fuels it further. Educational institutions should be made accessible by bringing in function hundreds of ghost schools in the country. Females should be given sanitary products and adequate infrastructure so that they stay comfortable at schools.
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Syeda Noor Ul Ain Amjad is a public policy graduate of National Defence University.
She is also a volunteer and social activist.