KARACHI: Pakistan has more than 12 million girls’ student out-of-school out 22 million students with Sindh and Punjab at the top. Moreover, the provision of government schools for girls is much lower as compared to boy students.
These figures were shared by the experts at the provincial policy dialogue on “Improving Allocation for Girls Education”, organized by the Human Development Foundation (HDF) with the collaboration of Oxfam at a local hotel on Friday.
The speakers included Muddassar Alam Tahirkheli, Advocacy Officer HDF, Abdul Shakoor Sindhu, Diversity Consulting, Shahzad Qureshi, Regional Head, Talal, Education Consultant, Azhar Nadeem, Project Manager, HDF and others.
While speaking to the overcrowded event, Muddassar Alam Tahirkheli informed that there are over 22 million children out of school in Pakistan. Majority of these out of school children are girls (over 12 million). However, the provision of government schools for girls is much lower as compared to boys.
“This disparity in the provision of schools for a marginalized social group (girls) by the state is the fundamental data point of entry for any meaningful agenda for equitable, gender-responsive education financing, planning, and advocacy agenda in the country”, he added.
The synopsis of Pakistan’s education statistics and system depicts a bleak situation despite the fact that investment in education has been increasing over the past few years by the respective provincial governments. In light of evidence from the extensive literature review, desk research and primary research, it becomes evident that there is a dire need to approach the issue through gender-responsive education financing lense in the country. The literature review suggests that effective education financing for girls ought to address major themes that include (i) addressing out of school girls issues, (ii) addressing the provision of girls government schools, and (iii) provision of basic physical facilities (infrastructure) in schools. For these themes to be addressed, the need is to have in place robust education financing with a specific gender agenda that brings to fore, the value of girls’ education and drives policy towards greater gender sensitization in matters of budgetary allocations, and spending, he added.
Muddassar Alam Tahirkheli further said that Punjab and Sindh have the highest number of out of school children among all provinces with 10.5 million and 6.4 million children out of school respectively. While this is largely due to the overall population numbers that are highest in these two provinces, the absolute magnitude of children out of school in the two provinces presents an enormous challenge for the state.
Furthermore, Muddassar Alam said there is no other argument that to improve upon the current situation it is essential to intervene at service delivery level. District education administration is the unit directly responsible for the improvement of access to and quality of education at this level. This devolved set-up is directly linked to the schools in their jurisdiction, however, they lack two most important mechanisms which could have a meaningful impact upon the state of education at this level. Firstly, the proper communication mechanisms which include information systems and databases which are by and large not gender disaggregated, to convey the needs of individual girls schools in a timely manner to the decision makers at the provincial level and secondly, lack of participation from the citizens in the budget-making makes the allocation just one-sided affair. As a result of these missing links between needs and targets, and non-participatory budgeting the challenges faced at the district level remain partially or completely unaddressed despite planning and budgeting over several years.
HDF’s Sindh regional head Shahzad Qureshi said that his organization and Oxfam work together around the core contours to advance gender equality, improve financing for girls education, strengthen social accountability, promote gender-sensitive school structures, generate evidence on domestic resource mobilization and launch citizen-led campaigns to break barriers obstructing young girls to access to education.
In this regard, a series of district-level policy dialogues were held in both provinces in the selected district of Muzaffargarh (MGH) and Tando Mohammad Khan (TMK) wherein two research studies i) Domestic Resource Mobilization and ii) District Education Plans were presented. These Policy Dialogues generated a comprehensive debate among the citizens to improve the state of girls’ education in respective districts. Consolidating the outcome of these dialogues HDF is holding a policy dialogue at provincial level highlighting the demands of the citizens and to be placed before decision makers and duty bearers at the provincial level for improving the allocation for girls’ at the district level.
The policy dialogue will provide a forum to initiate a debate on citizens’ demands and would provide the provincial education department and provincial ministry of Education to engage with the citizens to overcome the challenges and also explore the opportunities to improve the state of girls’ education, Shah Qureshi added.