“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” (Brigham Young)
The importance of education for women is hardly overstated: women raise children, and educated women raise nations with improved human capital, high economic growth and enhanced productivity. Disempowerment of women due to inadequate health, lack of education and insecure environments compromises the value of their life, and stifles their social and economic development. However, it should come as no surprise that Pakistan is listed as one of the countries that have large gender gaps in education, and therefore it requires hefty investments in girls’ education for a socio-economic uplift.
Education is the right of every human but unfortunately in Pakistan the women, who constitute more than half of the country’s population, are still mostly deprived of education. According to Pakistan Education for All (EFA) Review Report 2015, there is a large stock of 6.7 million out-of- school children in Pakistan; of which 55 percent are girls. This vividly exhibits that Pakistan has failed miserably in providing its women with good quality, equitable and sufficient education. We, as a nation, have failed to realize that educating women is instrumental to creating awareness, forming social relationships and achieving a good place in society. Education allows women to take part in politics, the legal system, human resource development and other important areas that can ensure their concerns are heard. Plus they can also play an important role in the economy of the country. A greater participation of educated women in the economy and political process would lead to a better world for our present as well as future generations.
A brief look at the facts reveals that both the state and the society are equally responsible for this fiasco. In addition an acute lack of political will and vision on the part of our rulers, poor infrastructure, social and cultural taboos attached with educated women, life threats to school-going girls and frequent attacks on the women’s educational institutions in tribal areas are some of the key factors responsible for the abysmal state of women’s education in Pakistan.
Lack of vision and commitment towards the implementation of educational policies has been a major factor behind the sorry state of women’s education in the country. None of the successive governments could realize the gravity of the situation and the disastrous consequences that not educating the women would accrue. Since independence, Pakistan has had nine national education policies, five five-year plans, one Free and Compulsory Education Act, a constitutional amendment (18th) and dozens of other schemes, seminars and conferences aimed at improving the prospects of women education in the country but, unfortunately, the results have been far from satisfactory.
Poor state of women education in Pakistan becomes graver by multiple faculty-related issues. Lack of well-educated, well-trained and motivated faculty is hampering the prospects of women education in the country. At present, one teacher is available for nearly ninety students. The situation is precarious especially when we see that teaching is not a much-sought-after career in Pakistan. Most of those who join this noble profession come to this field when they had exhausted all their options to join a profession of their choice. Teaching is like a last resort to them because they are not the teachers by choice but rather by a sheer stroke of ‘bad luck’. Resultantly, these unmotivated, disenchanted individuals fail to make a positive impact on the learning process of the young minds.
Adding fuel to the fire is the lack of infrastructure like buildings, libraries, playgrounds and furniture in girls’ schools in many parts of Pakistan. Lack of basic facilities in schools such as electricity, clean drinking water and toilets are additional deterrents which make the already bad situation worse. According to Pakistan Education Statistics Report 2012-13, out of 63,914 public schools for girls, 15.3% are without building, 7.1% are kacha schools, 61% lack electricity, 42.4% lack toilets, 44.3 % lack boundary walls, 3.8% are declared dangerous while another 16.1% are in need of major repairs. This situation indeed shows nothing but a criminal negligence by the state towards women’s education.
These were some instances of failure on the part of government. Now comes the role of society that, unfortunately, has also been negative and not up to the mark. Pakistani society has, one way or the other, contributed towards the appalling condition of women’s education in the country. Here are some facts which evidently point out some of the social factors which have deterred the growth of women’s education in the country.
The deep-rooted social and cultural taboos attached with an educated woman are a big reason behind the awful condition of women education in the country. In a patriarchal society like ours, an educated woman is seen as a threat to the social norms and cultural values. For, with education comes freedom to choose one’s own lifestyle — and also life partner. Education enlightens the minds and an enlightened mind questions the very legitimacy of brutal practices such as Vani, Swara, Karo Kari, honour killings and marriage with the Holy Quran which are prevalent in different parts of the country.
Also, girls are not sent to schools because parents see no sense in educating their daughters when their primary job is deemed to keep the house clean and rear children. This is partly because of illiteracy among the parents as they fail to understand the importance of education and partly because of the fear of losing the family honour. Parents think that their daughters might interact with opposite sex while going out to school and thus may cause a great harm to family honour. So, they choose not to send the girls to school in order to save the family honour.
If the current situation prevails, it will continue unleashing disastrous human, social, economic and political consequences on the state of Pakistan. However, determined efforts for improving education for women can certainly bring positive results for the country. Political will, vision and commitment, competent and sufficient faculty are required to enhance women’s education in the country. Women’s education serves as the most powerful tool that can greatly help Pakistan to achieve its national goals while utilising women’s power, skills, knowledge and competencies.