“I want our government to take our future seriously, guarantee quality education for every child and deliver what they have promised us,” said Maryam Farooq, 18, at a Malala Day event on Friday.
Farooq was one of 37 girls who presented a resolution demanding universal access and quality of education for every child, to Provincial Minister for Population Welfare Zakia Shahnawaz. The event was organised by Plan International Pakistan in collaboration with the Child Rights Movement as part of global initiative to mark Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday.
Farooq spoke with The Express Tribune a few hours before Malala Yousafzai addressed the Youth Assembly session at the United Nations.
Farooq is an intern and volunteer teacher at Bunyad-i-Fatima School- one of the Bunyad Foundation schools, an NGO working to empower women and girls through education. Farooq recently sat her matriculation exams from the Government Girls Yasmeen High School in Mughalpura.
“Our struggle is for a basic right- the right to a better future,” said Farooq, “Why should any child, be it a boy or a girl, be deprived of it?”
Having studied at a government school, Farooq believes she has closely witnessed the education system the majority of children in Pakistan go to. “There is a lack of resources for education,” she says, “Our schools lack teachers, furniture, electricity even basic sanitation.”
Several activities were held across the country in connection with Malala Day. Students in several regions presented resolutions to education ministers and government officials. Plan International Pakistan said resolutions had been presented in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and the Islamabad Capital Territory.
The resolution comprised a six point agenda. It called on governments to understand the education crisis in the country. It demanded measures to ensure universal access to education. It highlighted the need to increase enrolment of girls and children from marginalised segments of the society. It demanded greater allocation of funds and spending on education. It stressed the importance of vocational training to empower students, especially girls. The resolution also asked the government to incorporate the concerns and opinions of the youth in shaping educational systems to improve their performance.
According to figures provided by Plan International Pakistan, there are almost 58,535 public schools in the Punjab out of which 48 per cent are for girls. Only 43 per cent of the 11,516,133 students enrolled in the schools are girls.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.