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‘The real issue is political commitment and efficiency’

Pakistan ranks 144 out of 145 countries in terms of gender gap and in terms of education, only 19 percent of Pakistani girls complete secondary education as compared to 46 percent boys.

In an environment where female teachers are only a handful less than 20 percent with more than half of the schools having no or non-functional toilets, separate and lockable washroom facility for girls remains a far cry, making majority of parents unwilling and reluctant to send their daughters to school.

These issues were discussed in a seminar organised by Indus Resource Centre at the Movenpick Hotel, Karachi.

The Indus Resource Centre (IRC) has been working in the rural areas of Sindh for promotion of education for the last 17 years. Today, the IRC is operating 86 government and 50 of its own schools with a total strength of 26,152 students.

The seminar focused on the findings of a study funded by Oxfam and conducted by the IRC which studied models like TCF, SZABIST, AKU, BRAC and the ones that have proved successful in increasing and maintaining girls’ enrolment in primary schools, and that can be replicated and upscaled for efficient delivery, especially by the public sector.

IRC adviser Nikhat Sattar outlined the objectives of the seminar and said that in 2015, Pakistan was the lowest in South Asia in HDI. “In gender equality, Pakistan also remains the lowest. In 2015, Pakistan became a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

He said SDG 4 called for inclusive and quality education for all and promotion of lifelong learning. “The target is for every country to ensure free and quality education for all children by 2030. But if we proceed at the same pace in which we have worked in the past 70 years it is highly unlikely that we will achieve this goal in the next 70 years.”

Sadiqa Salahuddin, executive director of the Indus Resource Centre, appreciated the efforts of the Sindh government and its commitment for implementation of the Sindh Education Sector Plan 2014-18.

She said the establishment of Monitoring & Evaluation unit in the education department, biometric checks for teachers’ attendance, and approval of the SNE for the department’s recently established Gender Unit,  were commendable steps in the right direction but there still was a long way to go.

Chief guest Anis Haroon, former NCSW chairperson, appreciated the efforts of the IRC for gender and education. “Education is a basic human right. Article 25A is a big commitment which should have resulted in a revolution, but the challenges in implementing the law comes into play. This is achievable only through political will.”

She said resources were plenty as budgets in many sectors lapse every year. “The real issue is a question of political commitment and efficiency. The latter is seen in the private sector and through partnerships the government can employ the services of the private sector. It is not just important that we educate all children but it is equally important how and what these children are taught, as it sets the future of the nation.”

She also highlighted the discrepancies in the laws whereby a child was an adult at 18 years for marriage, but the age for prohibiting child labour was 14 years. “It is our collective duty to pressurise government to implement the Right to Education Act in its true essence.”

The guest speakers included Dr Kaiser Bengali, development economist who presented an eight-point agenda for development in education.

He said girls’ education could not be addressed in isolation and neither could the responsibility of education provision be delegated to NGOs. He emphasised on the need of political constituency for education. “Today, education figures nowhere in the election campaign of any potential MPA.”

Fehmida Hussain, former chairperson of the Sindhi Language Authority, highlighted the gender inequality in the curricula where girls were shown in traditional roles of rilli-making and collecting water while boys were shown in productive roles as bread earners. “Even in health and education chapters, illustrations show only boys practicing daily hygiene habits.”

Correspondent. ‘The real issue is political commitment and efficiency’. The News, March 14, 2017.

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