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The Lahore Times

Published Date: Mar 25, 2013

Educating girls critical for tackling socio-economic woes: experts

Deliberating
on girls education with particular reference to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the experts
at a SDPI seminar has said that not only poverty but the social, cultural and
administrative factors must be also be addressed to improve girls education at
various levels.

This
was said by speakers at a seminar on “Female Education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”
organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday. Dr
Ibrar Ahmad, an Advisor at SDPI, chaired the proceedings.

The
seminar was organized to launch an impact assessment study conducted by SDPI to
assess the outcomes of a ‘Stipend Program’ initiated by government of Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa to increase girls enrollments at secondary school level across the
province. Under this program, stipend money of Rs. 200 was given to each girl
between the class six to ten from year 2006 and onward.

Briefing
on findings of the impact assessment study, Muhammad Zeshan from SDPI said that
stipend program had a significant impact on female education where an increase
of 7 percent was observed in girls enrolment in secondary schools. Citing study
results, he said, 93 percent of families availed the stipend program where around
35 percent of girls might have dropped out in absence of stipend money.

He
said, Although improvement in secondary schools shows a structural change
towards female education. However, uneven socioeconomic conditions make female
education less attractive. “Females in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa work in household and
non-farm activities. Around 81 percent girls were indulged in household chores
whereas 10 percent were working in non-farm activities resulting in 10%
drop-outs,” he went on to add. Also, the probability of female schooling
decreases by 2.8 percent if the distance of home from school increased by 1
percent.

He
also revealed that family size has a negative impact on female schooling where
probability of female schooling decreases by 0.7% with an additional family
member. He also deliberated on the importance of educated parents and said that
if the family is aware of socioeconomic benefits of education then probablity
of female education is increased by 5.2 percent.

Based
on its finding, he proposed several recommendations for improvement in the
program including strengthening of PC-1 process by introducing high power
interdepartmental committee; involvement of education economist with scientific
budgetary forecasting; introduction of awareness program; introduction of
M&E at local level ; reduction of delays in funds transfer and efficient
grievance redressal system; developing synergies with other cash transfer
programs and constituting a committee on hard areas.

Discussing
the findings of study, Dr Aisha Anees Malik from Iqra University Islamabad said
that poverty is not the only impediment to girls education but it involves
myriad of cultural, administrative and economic factors that hinder girls
education especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She said, cash support programs can
address the poverty issue by improving the girls enrollment, but their
retention in school is only possible, if other hindering factors are also
addressed.

Maria
Tahir, Programme Manager, Pakistan Coalition for Education showed her concerns
that despite enormous investments in education sector, unfortunately poorest of
the poor is still deprived of the benefits of education and efforts must be
done to reach out to those extremely poor people. Discussing poor
infrastructure and lack of basic services she said that 37 percent of female
secondary school are without wash room. “So why would parents send their girls
to such schools? “she questioned.

During
the question answer session, the participants urged on social mobilization and
a strong cultural awareness raising campaign which should be a permanent part
of the process. They also called for declaring education emergency in true
spirit as done in Nicaragua for promotion of education. They were of the view
that although inclusion of article 25-A in constitution is a welcome step but
it’s a mere cosmetic exercise underlining that already a similar article 37-b
is present in the constitution and really need is to implement in letter and
spirit. Participants were informed that KPK is establishing an independent
Monitory Cell to inspect students enrollment teachers presence, educational
structures at all level.