On Nov 13, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its new report titled “Shall I feed my daughter or educate her: Barriers to girls’ education in Pakistan”. It concluded that many girls simply had no access to education, including, inter alia, a shortage of government schools — especially for girls. Among the factors keeping girls out of school, the report found, were the government’s under-investment in schools, lack of schools, prohibitive school fees and related costs, corporal punishment and a failure to enforce compulsory education. Here are the key recommendations made in the report:
To the Federal Government of Pakistan
1. Increase expenditure on education in line with UNESCO-recommended levels needed to fulfil obligations related to the right to education.
2. Strengthen oversight of provincial education systems’ progress toward achieving parity between girls and boys and universal primary and secondary education for all children, by requiring provinces provide accurate data on girls’ education, monitoring enrolment and attendance by girls, and setting targets in each province.
3. Strengthen the federal government’s role in assisting provincial governments in provision of education, with the goal of ending gender disparities in all provinces.
4. Work with provincial governments to improve the quality of government schools and quality assurance of private schools.
5. Raise the national minimum age of marriage to 18 with no exceptions and develop and implement a national action plan to end child marriage, with the goal of ending all child marriage by 2030, as per Sustainable Development Goal target 5.3.
6. Endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political agreement to protect schools, teachers and students during armed conflict.
Read More: The Fundamental Right to EDUCATION
To Provincial Governments
1. Direct the provincial education authority to make girls’ education a priority within the education budget, in regard to construction and rehabilitation of schools, training and recruitment of female teachers, and provision of supplies, to address the imbalance between the participation of girls and boys in education.
2. Strengthen enforcement of anti-child labour laws.
3. Instruct police officials to work with schools to ensure the safety of students, including monitoring potential threats to students, teachers and schools, and working to prevent harassment of students, especially girls.
4. Ensure that anyone encountering corruption by government education officials has access to effective and responsive complaint mechanisms.
To Provincial Education Authorities
1. Rehabilitate, build and establish new schools, especially co-ed and girls’ schools.
2. Until government schools are available, provide scholarships to good-quality private schools for girls living far from government schools.
3. Provide free or affordable transport for students who travel long distances or through difficult environments to get to a government school.
4. Abolish all tuition, registration and exam fees at government schools.
5. Provide poor students with all needed items including school supplies, uniforms, bags, shoes and textbooks.
6. Instruct all principals to identify out-of-school children in their catchment areas and work with families to get them into school.
7. Explore options for increasing attendance of girls from poor families through scholarships, food distribution, or meal programmes at girls’ schools.
8. When children quit school or fail to attend, ensure all schools reach out to determine the reasons and re-engage the student in school.
9. Require each school to develop and implement a security plan with attention to concerns of girls including sexual harassment.
10. Develop a plan to expand access to middle and high school for girls through the government education system, including establishment of new schools.
11. Strengthen the system for monitoring and quality assurance of all schools, not only for government schools but also for private schools and madrasas.
12. Prohibit all forms of corporal punishment in schools; take appropriate disciplinary action against any employee violating this rule.
13. Ensure that all schools have adequate boundary walls, safe and private toilets with hygiene facilities, and access to safe drinking water.