Pakistan low female literacy rate and how to improve it
I came home early from college one day and found a very young maid working in my house. She was busy with house chores, but I was surprised by the fact that it was school time and she wasn't going. When she saw my books in my hand she started talking and asking things about me and my studies. I noticed her interest and asked her about her life. Upon inquiry she told her name was Hajra, but what she told me next really saddened me the most.
According to her, she wanted to go to school and get decent education. Her dream was to become a productive member of the society, and in doing so support her family too. But due to lack of education on her parents parts the odds were against her. Usually in circumstances like this girls are held back from going to school and instead are needed for domestic duties or to help their families by generating additional financial resources and in most cases being hired out as domestic help. In a country like Pakistan, girls are considered as liability that someday will get married and are not seen as contributor to the social uplift of the family. In Pakistan beside poverty being a major deterrent to girls’ education, strong cultural prejudices exist against it especially in province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Emergence of Taliban phenomena has also contributed to low literacy rate in KPK where especially girls are forcibly stopped from going to school and their schools blown up.
In Pakistan girls are not given an equal chance to get education. It’s high time we here in Pakistan realize the importance of girls’ education and the change it can bring in the community and in society as a whole. When girls are not educated everyone suffers. It also leads to a vicious circle of poverty where families remain entrapped because girls growing into women are illiterate with little to no skills. Educating a woman can be likened to educating the whole family because of the role they play in families. Education increases the probability of a girl playing an active role in political and economic activities. Besides having a positive impact on her community and society as a whole it also has impact on her life too. An educated woman, for example, is likely to marry at a later age and have fewer children, as shown in one recent in India where women who received primary education resulted in decrease in both maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate as women made more informed choices.
So what can be done to improve female literacy rate in Pakistan. The situation needs to deal both at local and at government level. At local level both parental and community involvement should be encouraged in developing curriculum and children education. Any set up done in this regard should be low cost ,close to home with flexible timetable and should have women teachers , as most parents prefer their to have their daughters taught by women. Government of Pakistan is a major fund contributor towards education but its budget allocation and expenditure as percentage of GDP is lowest in the region. Government of Pakistan needs to improve this situation by increasing the funding for girls education and giving financial incentives to people for sending girls to, especially in rural areas.
Initiatives that have worked globally for improved enrollment, keeping girls in school and had encouraged continued education are Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs), school feeding and Take Home Rations (THRs). CCTs give money to poor people in return for fulfilling specific conditions, such as accessing basic health services, vaccinating children, or sending daughters to school. CCTs provide a good initiative for girls’ enrollment discourages early dropout and provides family with additional income source. In one study in Malawi, for every extra dollar a girl received above $1, enrollment increased by a percentage point and reduced drop-out rates by approximately 40 percent. School feeding is another powerful tool that helps families fight poverty, provide food security and facilitates education especially girls. Schooling feeding improves nutritional status of a child especially a girl who is likely to suffer neglect at home because male siblings are preferred and considered future bread earners for the family. School meals also offset some of the cost of education so that a poor family has one less meal per day to provide. In rural India school feeding resulted in increase of female enrollment by 22 percent , dropout rates among girls decreased by 5 percent , and 35 percent increase in the chance that the girl will finish primary education .THRs are also given with same preconditions as CCTs and school feeding . These rations offset the families’ loss of girl labor and are effective economic incentives for families to send their girls to school.
In Pakistan we need to act now, the present situation demands urgent action. Specific policies and budget targeted towards girl’s education is required. Government, civil society and institutions both local and international needs to work together to end this cycle of poverty and illiteracy. As one African proverb says “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.”