The Pakistani culture consists of patriarchal authority and dated traditions that greatly affect the women of the country. The struggle of gender inequality has made it extremely difficult for women to obtain an education in Pakistan. In terms of educational standards, Pakistan is one of the lowest performing countries in South Asia. In 2017, it was ranked “the second worst country in the world in regards to gender equality.” Although girls are legally allowed to receive an education, there are many obstacles standing in their way. Here are the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Pakistan.
Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Pakistan
- Both sexes have low enrollment rates. Nearly 22.6 million children (ages 5 through 16) are not in school in Pakistan. In fact, 44 percent of boys and 56 percent of girls in Pakistan do not go to school. Both boys and girls are being denied the right to an education; however, girls are disproportionately affected.
- Early marriage interrupts young girls’ education. This common Pakistani custom places intense societal pressures that restrict girls from continuing their education once married. In fact, 21 percent of girls are married by their eighteenth birthday, and three percent are married by the age of 15. For every year a girl continues her secondary education, she reduces her chances of becoming a child bride by 3.4 percent. Currently, the government is working to raise the legal marriage age to 18 in order to protect these girls.
- The Taliban restricts girls’ rights to education. The Sunni Islamic militant organization claims that female education is contrary to Islamic law and they also disagree with western style schooling. The Taliban has destroyed school buildings, killed hundreds of teachers and students and specifically terrorized girls seeking an education. In 2007, the Taliban began a violent and terroristic stream of attacks in Pakistan. As a result, 900 girls’ schools were closed, ending the education of more than 120,000 girls.
- Same-sex educational facilities favor boys. Due to the deeply rooted patriarchal culture, women and young girls’ schooling is not as valued as their male counterparts. The majority of schools in Pakistan are same-sex institutions. Coeducation is a modern concept for the country, making it a rarity. Only 40,000 of the 163,000 primary schools are girl schools.
- Rural school-aged girls face greater challenges. In rural areas, the problem of low literacy rates is exacerbated. In 2015, the literacy rate for girls in rural areas was still as low as 38 percent; although, the numbers have been slowly increasing. That same year, 69 percent of girls were literate. Many rural areas do not have access to usable facilities, an adequate number of teachers or basic supplies such as chalkboards and books. In many cases, girls cannot afford transportation and cannot make the long journey on foot to the nearest school. In some rural villages, the nearest school is 93 miles away.
- Education in Pakistan is underfunded. The Pakistan government legally guarantees the right for all children between the ages of five and 16 to attend school. However, funding for education is low. In 2010, the government granted only 10 percent of its funds to the education system. Comparably, the government spends seven times as much money on military purposes. Due to ill funding, schooling infrastructure is falling apart and teachers are often unqualified.
- The lack of education for girls directly affects their future earnings. Women only make up about 39 percent of the labor force in Pakistan. On average, women with primary education earn only 51 percent of what men earn in Pakistan. However, with secondary education, the figure jumps to 70 percent. The number of girls completing their primary education is also disproportionate compared to boys. In 2014, 79 percent of boys in Pakistan completed primary school. However, the completion rate drops to 66 percent for girls in primary school.
- Impoverished communities face even more barriers regarding education. Many poor families do not have the funds for schooling costs. Most government-owned schools in Pakistan are free, but the families are responsible for paying for books, paper and clothing. As the average national income is only $1,500, many families cannot afford school supplies. However, educating girls helps to stimulate the economic growth in these Pakistani communities. Increasing women’s education by just one percent would result in a .3 percent increase in economic growth.
- Pakistan native, Malala Yousafzai, is an activist for female education. Yousafzai started a non-profit organization, the Malala Fund, that raises millions for educational funding. The fund has benefitted Pakistan by building new schools across the country and helping young girls find their voice. The foundation has built several schools in rural villages, helping more than 1,000 girls receive an education.
- The Hoshyar Foundation is working to increase girls’ education. The Hoshyar Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase girls’ access to education primarily in the rural communities of Pakistan. The Hoshyar programs raise funds through donations for female empowerment and education. The organization is sponsoring schools in eastern and northwestern parts of Pakistan, helping to make education possible for young girls. By 2018, the foundation was supporting 12 schools in Pakistan by paying for student tuition and funding the training for teachers. Through their programs, more than 1,200 girls have been able to attend school.
Girls education in Pakistan is extremely valuable but sadly undervalued. The education crisis has affected millions of children, two-thirds being female. Although these top 10 facts about girls’ education in Pakistan may seem grim, the educational system is improving with the help of countless foundations and volunteers around the world. With their help and continuing government reform, girls education in Pakistan will become a fundamental right rather than an inaccessible dream.
– Marissa Pekular