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Women’s Education

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Women’s Education 

Many things have contributed to this sorry state of women’s education. Among these, poverty is one major factor. Girls belonging to poor families do not attend schools mainly for two reasons: (1) they don’t have resources to meet their educational expenses like buying books and uniforms; and (2) they have to support their families financially.

Thus, in order to mitigate their families’ financial troubles, they either work at their homes, e.g. tailoring, doing embroidery, rearing cattle, etc. or they seek employment as housemaids.

Another contributory factor is our toxic societal values as our society has dual attitude towards education: boys are encouraged to get it while girls are discouraged. The former are patronised and pampered whereas the latter are burdened with household chores thereby making it difficult for them to take some time out for study. It prevails especially in rural areas where girls have to be only housewives. As a result, majority of them fail to get even primary education.

Our society’s outlook is manifested in the fact that a girl is never allowed to pursue a career of her own choice; she cannot take a decision without her family’s interference. On the other hand, boys are free to make this choice so as to make their mark. Against all these odds, if a girl finds an opportunity to study, her education is limited to primary or secondary level, at the most. After this, there’s little possibility that she will continue with it, especially if she belongs to a conservative family. It is because girls are expected to be married off when they have attained puberty. Admittedly, there are some exceptions in better educated or financially strong families; however, their number is trivial.

In addition, there are some deficiencies on the part of the state which have contributed to this abysmal situation. A serious lack of infrastructure and the absence of public transportation facilities have done considerable harm to this domain. A large number of girls miss out on education because of these two issues as many areas do not have girls’ schools. Although, in some cases, they study in boys’ schools, it continues only till primary level as our society disapproves of both sexes studying together, especially when they are in their teens. So, to study further, girls have to attend middle schools, which are few and located faraway. As nearest schools are at least 10 kilometres away, here arises the need for public transport, which is almost non-existent even in metropolitan cities, not to mention the countryside.

Non-availability of public transport heightens the issues of security. Today, most women do not prefer to go out on their own for they feel themselves vulnerable to violence and abuse. So, if they attend schools by themselves, they feel them in a persistent danger of being harassed and abused as is shown in a number of cases of girls’ rape and murder.

These are some of the reasons why majority of our women are illiterate. If the issues remain unaddressed, our desire for high literacy rate will remain unfulfilled, which will, in turn, shatter our dreams of creating an egalitarian society where women enjoy rights as men do and where women are economically independent. Here, the question arises: how can these goals be realised?

Resolving these issues is, indeed a herculean task, yet some things warrant immediate attention. For instance, the menace of poverty has to be eliminated before we seek to eradicate illiteracy completely. If poor families come out of poverty, chances that girls get education will become bright because they will be free from financial constraints. They will no longer be worried about contributing to family income. Thus, the government has to take the responsibility to root out poverty through better and efficient economic policies so that the situation can be redressed.

More importantly, the government has to ensure that the infrastructural requirements are met. New female-friendly schools and colleges must be built. Also, girls’ educational institutions should be provided with vehicles so as to resolve their transportation issues. Since this task is arduous and requires both resources and time, it can be started at a small scale and then expanded nationwide in phases. If this is done, it will surely pay dividends.

Next, our toxic societal values need to be shunned. It must be understood that girls are as important as boys and hence they too have the right to education. This can be by eradicating gender discrimination from our society. For example, our textbooks discriminate against them on the basis of gender and depict them mostly as housewives only.

No doubt, changing entrenched norms is a difficult as well as a time-taking process. However, it can become possible through concerted efforts. In this regard, weeding out discriminatory stuff from curricula can be of some help. Besides, changing ingrained gender roles can also prove helpful. The developed countries of the world have accomplished this and we must also follow suit.
However, sadly the incumbent government, as many believe, is tilting at windmills. Instead of reforming the system, it is making changes to the manual, i.e. creating new curriculum. Imagine if a mobile has some hardware issue, how can it be compensated for by making changes to its software? The government needs to understand this.
Unless the government realises its responsibility and unless individuals play their due role, the situation will persist. We cannot afford to continue with the status quo. So, it is high time we paid heed and strove to redress the situation. Failing this task, we will pay high price in the shape of rampant illiteracy and poor human development.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Larkana.
He can be reached at:

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