Education – The constitution of Pakistan states that every child has the right to free and compulsory education, yet millions of children in the country remain deprived of their constitutional right. Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. The major cause for concern, however, is that twice as many males as females receive the education. The situation is largely alarming in Rural areas of the country, where finances and cultural values form obstacles in the path of a female receiving education, hence, leaving her deprived of her constitutional right.
Patriarchal values are deeply embedded in the society of Pakistan; men are the primary authority figures and women are subordinate. Men are seen as the breadwinners and females as homemakers. These cultural boundaries lead to low investment in female education; by the government, as well as families. Poverty, regressive development, and high fertility rates are the consequences of underinvestment in female education.
When given the opportunity, poor families prefer sending their sons to schools. Saffiah has five children, out of whom; she only sends two of the sons to school. While she claims financial troubles as the reason for this; it only causes us to wonder:
Why not the daughters?
The answer to this question is quite clear. Saffiah and her family took a decision that any other poor family in Pakistan would take. On the basis of social traditions in Pakistan, their sons would go on to earn for and support the family, whereas their daughters would stay at home. What Saffiah’s family did not realize was that education consolidates a woman’s position in the household and in society.
Gender inequality can be gauged by Pakistan’s 141st rank in a report on the gender gap for 142 countries (World Economic Forum) and the fact that 60% of females are illiterate (UNDP 2007).
Women in Pakistan face an extremely restricted set of socio-economic choices. In addition, the concept of extremism leads to insurgency hurdles. Militants have destroyed over a thousand schools meant for the education of females across the country. They have been aptly supported by the landlords in rural areas, who feel that education is a threat to their power and status. Saffiah says “while you see quite a few girls attending schools in this city (Karachi), you will see hardly any in our village”
“One Child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world”.
Indeed Malala Yousefzai’s recommendation for the world is true for Pakistan. It can be inferred from contemporary research and from the successful experience of the developed world that investing in female education is safe, secure and rewarding. Ending gender inequality is a step towards a progressive society. A lukewarm educational policy is no longer an option if Pakistan wants to accelerate and compete on the economic and social fronts with the rest of the world. Therefore, the government should not falter in taking initiatives to reap the huge socio-economic benefits from this investment.