Millions of girls are still out of school in Pakistan because the government spends little on girls’ education, a leading international rights group said in its latest report. According to the HRW education report, Pakistan’s education system is in dire crisis, with lack of basic education amenities for disadvantaged children, particularly girls.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international non-governmental organisation that specialises in human rights and advocacy and works on behalf of refugees, migrants, political prisoners and refugees. The report released by the HRW titled “Shall I Feed My Daughter, or Educate Her? – Barriers to Girls’ education in Pakistan” claims that almost 32 percent of girls have been unable to acquire primary education in Pakistan, compared to 21 percent of boys.

To Give Girls’ Education A Chance Is To Give Pakistan A Chance

This report is based on the research conducted in Pakistan in 2017 and 2018. The researchers carried out 209 group and individual interviews, in cities including Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta and included girls who never attended school, teachers, parents, education experts, activists, school principals and community workers.

Only 13 percent girls continued with their education after reaching the ninth standard, the report revealed. The situation of Balochistan is much bleaker, where 81 percent of girls failed in the completion of their primary education in the year 2014-15, compared to 52 percent of boys in the province.

The report also indicates a lack of investment in the education sector and the scarcity of government schools for girls as major education barriers. Other factors included corporal punishment, poor-quality of schools in both the public and private sector, high-priced schooling system, lack of effective regulatory practices and corruption. Additional barriers to girl’s education in Pakistan included sexual harassment, child labour and child marriage, which also highlighted the prevalence of gender discrimination in the country, the report added.

 “The Pakistan government’s failure to educate children is having a devastating impact on millions of girls,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, HRW director for women’s rights. “Many of the girls we interviewed are desperate to study, but instead are growing up without the education that would help them have options for their future.”

Nearly 22.5 million children  are out-of-school in Pakistan. The new Pakistani government has acknowledged under-investment in the education sector, leading to poor quality of education for children who have the means to enrol in schools and those who lack them,  the report stated.

Constitution of the country advocates compulsory and free education for children aged 5 to 16. However, the government has failed in initiating an organised effort for this cause. Decentralised government structure has led to an education policy that varies across the provinces, leading to the dismal state of girls’ education in Pakistan, the report added.

The HRW education report said the government’s “abdication of responsibility” towards girls’ education had led to the establishment of private schools that were unregulated with varying education quality. According to UN guidance, Pakistan needs to spend at least 15 to 20 percent of its national budget and 4 to 6 percent of its GDP in the education sector,  which was 12.6 in 2016 and 2.8 percent in 2017 respectively.

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