The only difference between a nation and a crowd is that of education. Gender parity in education cannot be achieved unless the root causes that constrain girls from obtaining education, particularly in rural Sindh, are addressed.
More than half of public sector schools do not have proper facilities and the number of female teachers is far less than that necessary to inspire confidence of parents and students.
These observations were made by Nikhat Sattar, adviser to the Indus Resource Centre (IRC), at a meeting with parliamentarians held at Avari Towers on Tuesday.
Adequate resources must be allocated specifically aimed towards the female gender and the education budget must be gender responsive, said Iffat Ara, development economist.
Dr Kaiser Bengali, ex-adviser to the governments of Sindh and Balochistan, while appreciating the Sindh Education Sector Plan (SESP) 2014-18 and the setting up of a Gender Unit within the Education Department, Sindh, presented a road map for gender mainstreaming in the education sector.
He identified coordination and commitment at provincial and district levels, school consolidation and prioritisation of the needs of female teachers and girl students as major challenges.
MPA Dr Muhammad Rafique said that although funds were allocated for education, there was no improvement in the state of education on ground. The one good thing that had happened was the attendance of absconding teachers who were forced to attend school because of the biometric system that had been introduced by the government, he was quoted as saying in a press release issued by the Indus Resource Centre.
He also recommended that the large number of one-room schools should be reduced and they should be consolidated. MPA Ameer Hyder Shah also highlighted the lack of functional schools in Thatta, where, he said, more than 350 schools were closed.
The recommendations of the forum were that the members of the parliament should raise their voices on the floor of the assembly and question the priorities of budget allocation and spending.
They should particularly suggest incorporating gender responsive budgeting within the planning and budgeting process.
The need to revise textbook content to make it more gender sensitive was emphasised by Dr Kaiser Bengali based on findings of a study of the textbooks of the Sindh Textbook Board by the IRC.
Sadiqa Salahuddin, executive director, Indus Resource Centre (IRC), briefed the parliamentarians about the role her organisation was playing to enhance girls’ education in rural Sindh.
The IRC is operating 86 government and 50 of its own schools with a total strength of 26,152 students. In collaboration with the Government of Sindh, the IRC has initiated a programme working at both policy and field levels.
A Gender Working Group comprising civil society and government organisations has been formed, a road map to implement the gender component of the SESP has been prepared and a prototype to incorporate gender responsive budgets has been developed.
The IRC has proposed that education budgets should use this model to allocate and spend resources so that the disparity between girls and boys in school education may be reduced.
Reporter. Call for making education budget gender responsive. The News, January 18, 2017.