Pakistan is a semi-developed country. This explains why education isn’t a major part of children’s lives in the country. Nearly 22.8 million children are out of school. That is to say 44 per cent of Pakistani youth is deprived of schooling, which is a basic right. This could lead to 44 per cent of the future population to be handicapped, in other words not as productive as they could have been, if they were given quality education and their talents were utilized.
It is a mortifying fact, that Pakistan has the world’s second highest number of children out of school. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that most of them are girls. 32 percent of girls that are 5-11 years (primary school) are deprived of schooling. By grade six or the start of middle school that percentage increases to 59 percent. Only 13 percent of girls are still in school till grade 9 or high school.
There are many factors that stand in the way of female education. Poverty is a humungous barrier. There are many factors due to which poverty rates shoot up, including economic vulnerability and job insecurity. These occur because the jobs provided are less than needed, hence increasing the competition for jobs.
This increases unemployment, which creates greater rifts between the poor, and the basic needs of life. The financially incapable people don’t see any point in wasting their money, on expensive things like healthcare and education, and declare that it’s not made for them. The poverty rate was 26 percent for 2020, which is a disappointing number, considering the 220 million residents that inhabit the country.
Families don’t have funds for schooling; some families don’t even have money to fulfill basic needs. Even though the government institutions are free, but the families are still responsible for the uniforms, and stationery. Where the number of off-springs is high, the parents prefer to educate the males, so they could support them, and marry their daughters.
Early marriages are majorly affecting female education. Statistics show that 3 percent of girls are married before or till 15 years, while 21 percent of girls are married till they reach the age of 18. Once a girl is married societal customs and pressures restrict her from continuing her education, which not only impacts her personal life but also curbs the economy from flourishing. Indicators show, increasing women’s education by one percent could increase the economic growth by 3 percent.
This fact needs to be acknowledged and worked upon by the government. It is disappointing that education is underfunded. In fact, only 10 percent of the funds are allocated to the education system. Due to ill funding and lack of attention, schooling infrastructure is falling apart, supplies like chalkboards and books are unavailable. The teachers are mostly unqualified. For that reason, women’s literacy in villages is really low. In 2018, it was 27 percent in the rural areas and 58 percent in the urban areas. Both figures are discouraging, and unhealthy.
In Pakistan, women’s education is in dire need of improvement, and as for now, no improvement in female literacy rates has been seen, on the contrary illiteracy rates have been towering for years. In tribal areas female literacy is as low as 9.5%., while Azad Jammu & Kashmir has a literacy rate of 74%, which is comparatively encouraging. It’s all about awareness. Many campaigns have been started to give a voice to these women, and to tell them about their basic rights.
This matter has reached the Pakistani senate, where an amendment bill for Restraint Act 1929, has been passed, that defines a child as an individual under the age of 18. This bill demands the criminalization of underage marriages, which saves 26 per cent of Pakistani youth, comprising 21 percent of girls, and 5 percent of boys from getting married as immature. These kids can mature before being committed in a relationship as demanding as marriage, which could decrease the divorce rates which seemingly have spiked recently.
Educating women is crucial, not only for the economy but for human development. At this stage, it is very pivotal to achieve gender equality, at least in the field of education, so that the maximum talent could be utilized. Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey said some wise words, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”. Female education builds stronger families, communities, and economies. We need to encourage female education and education in general so talent could be utilized, and economies could flourish.