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Home Education,FATA,Women Rights Girls' Education Crisis in KP: Urgent Action Needed for Equality

Girls' Education Crisis in KP: Urgent Action Needed for Equality

Parents need to take practical measures alongside a nationwide awareness campaign to prioritize girls' education and empower them to contribute to the country's development and prosperity.

by TNN Editor - 15 Jul, 2023 1533
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Aftab Mohmand

The lack of facilities, widespread poverty, and a rapidly growing population has resulted in a staggering number of 2.9 million girls being denied education in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. Among all the districts, the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have the highest percentage of out-of-school girls, reaching 74.4 percent.

When considering the entire province, a staggering 4.7 million children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are unable to access education. Without effective measures to control population growth and poverty rates, the number of girls deprived of education is likely to increase in the future.

These alarming figures have been revealed by the civil society of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, citing a recent survey report conducted under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). The report highlights that 64 percent of the 23 million children in the country are currently out of school.

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Qamar Naseem, a social worker from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, explains that there are various reasons behind the educational deprivation of girls, including early marriages, lack of transportation facilities, insecurity, shortage of teachers, and inadequate educational institutions.

He further cites a UNICEF report indicating that 21 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, while a Health and Demographic Survey in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reports that 23 percent of girls are married at an early age. Early marriages often prevent girls from pursuing further education. Although efforts such as double shift classes and other initiatives by the Department of Primary and Secondary Education and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have led to some improvements in the education sector, significant challenges remain.

Naseem notes that during the last four years, 70 percent of the education budget in the province was allocated to girls' education, with the remaining 30 percent for boys' education. However, the construction of an additional 15,000 schools is still needed in the province, which, due to resource limitations, would take an estimated 50 years to accomplish.

Furthermore, Pakistan's current expenditure on education stands at a mere 0.28 percent of its GDP, which is significantly lower than the global commitment of allocating six percent of the GDP to education. To address this issue and improve the education rate, Naseem suggests implementing a public-private partnership model, as successfully done by the Sindh government.

Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of including education experts in the Standing Committee on Education of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and finding solutions to address the reluctance of people in donating land to the government due to high property costs.

Similarly, political parties and the incoming government must prioritize girls' education and gender equality as key issues. Practical steps need to be taken by the government to address national and provincial commitments on an urgent basis.

Amna Afridi, a social activist working for girls' education in tribal districts, emphasizes that with 74 percent of girls in tribal districts missing out on education, it is crucial to discuss the challenges faced and find solutions after the upcoming elections. As a social worker, she is ready to assist the government in taking practical measures toward this goal.

During an interview, Aliza, another social worker, highlights the impact of climate change on girls' education. Last year's floods damaged many educational institutions, and untimely rains and floods continue to disrupt education, leading to girls dropping out. It is imperative to address the effects of climate change and protect educational institutions in the coming days.

Transportation remains a significant barrier for girls in remote areas to access education. Lack of transportation leads to a high dropout rate, with more than 50 percent of girls missing out on education after primary school. The percentage of girls who continue education beyond matriculation drops to less than 30 percent.

Aliza further emphasizes that regional traditions and the poor quality of government schools at the tehsil level also hinder girls' education. To improve the education and enrollment rate of girls, the government must focus on enhancing the quality of education and facilities in government schools.

Although the government invests in educational institutions, the quality remains inadequate. The majority of parents in the province cannot afford to send their girls to private schools. A collective effort involving civil society, media, politicians, and the government is required to create a society that upholds gender equality. Additional resources need to be allocated for girls' education, ensuring their optimal utilization.

Education experts point out that the overall education rate for girls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stands at around 43 percent. The impact of terrorism in tribal districts, where numerous girls' schools have been targeted, has resulted in the highest dropout rate among girls in those areas.

According to a report by the Pakistan Alliance for Maths and Science, more than 32 million children are out of school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with girls constituting over 60 percent of that number.

Various reports have raised concerns about the lack of education for girls. Parents need to take practical measures alongside a nationwide awareness campaign to prioritize girls' education and empower them to contribute to the country's development and prosperity.