According to Unicef, 17.6 per cent of Pakistani children are working and supporting their families instead of going to school. While affordability is an issue, a lot of girls do not go to school because of lack of basic facilities like separate toilets. The South Asian Forum for Education Development’s (SAFED’s) Annual Status of Education Report 2012 says that 23 per cent of all school-age children, predominantly girls in rural areas, are still out of school.
There are noticeable differences in gender literacy and in the level of literacy in different parts of Pakistan. This is a cause for worry. It is extremely important to educate the girl child because no education policy can work efficiently without gender balance. The government should know that the reason developed societies have made progress is because they realised the worth of education and gender equality. As it is, Pakistan is struggling with its literacy rate. Add to it, lack of gender equality in the education sector and we are doomed.
Pakistan’s education sector has been given inadequate budget allocations in the last many decades. Now that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is all set to form the next government, it must make headway in education reforms by allocating more money to the education sector and taking the issue of girls’ education quite seriously. Since the provision of quality education has not been on any government’s priority list, the education system stands compartmentalised into private and public education. This has resulted in a class-based society despite the fact that education has always figured prominently in the manifestos of every political party. It is hoped that the PML-N will ensure quality education across the country. The next government also needs to address the issue of child labour, which is a result of the poor economic conditions of the country. The government should take concrete steps to ensure equitable distribution of wealth and provide quality education to all and sundry.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2013.
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