Female Education and Adult Literacy in Pakistan: Bridging the Connections

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Pakistan has been struggling in the field of education since its creation. Low literacy rate and poor quality of education are the major drawbacks of the educational system in Pakistan (Farah, 2007; Latif, 2009). Especially, girls schooling has received very less preference in disadvantaged sections of the society and particularly in rural areas. In Sindh, girls mostly have very low access to the basic education as compared to boys. Even if some of girls get access to primary education, many factors hinder their further education and force them to quit schooling. In rural areas, the female literacy rate falls to 25 percent and girls’ school enrolment falls from fifty-five percent to twenty percent from Grade 1 to 6 (Latif, 2009; Das, 2010). There are two major factors impeding girls’ education in rural Sindh — demand and supply. At the demand side, parents and the community have the traditional and indifferent attitude towards female education, they consider it worthless. As far as supply side is concerned, unavailability of girls’ schools, poor location of schools, lack of facilities and infrastructure (Lloyd & Sathar, 2005), the shortage of competent and dedicated teachers are the big issues hindering female schooling in rural areas. The government has started taking initiatives to combat all these problems through its formal schooling system, literacy campaigns and Adult Literacy Programs (ALPs) to achieve Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (National Education Policy, Pakistan, 1998-2010). The adult literacy centres (ALC) are established in all districts of Pakistan to provide basic literacy to each adult citizen of Pakistan. The assumption is that having achieved a certain level of literacy may also have helped those participants realize the need and value of educating girls. The study reported here aimed to explore the ALP participants’ views about female education.

Emergence of the Study

It is evident from the various study reports (Horn, 1992; Aftab, 1994; Imam, 1995; Farah, & Bacchus, 1999; Latif, 2009) that girls can contribute in the development of the nation, if they have due access to quality education. But it is the irony of the fate that girls’ education has not yet received its due place in the rural areas of Sindh, particularly in district Matiari. Education of girls has been given less priority and value as compared to male education in terms of the demand for it by the parents/community and its provision by the government. The estimated population of the district Matiari is more than 6, 10,000 (Revenue Department, district Matiari, 2010). From the government’s side there are only 10 girls’ high schools and 160 girls’ primary schools in the district; the official figures show that 33 of them are closed/non-functional. There is only one college for girls in whole district. At the community side (demand side) ignorance and indifferent attitude of parents and community at large towards female education is a big impeding factor in the way of female schooling; and it has a direct impact on the supply side. Imam (1995) writes in her study that female education is usually interpreted as a futile effort and a waste of resources. She further describes that societal prejudices against female education are reinforced by the negative attitude of the male members of the household, who may abhor the education of their women folk. At different stages of my life, I have observed in my own context that boys are given preference for schooling over girls. My village consists of 250 households, with a population of approximately 2500, but only 30-40 girls have completed their primary education. There are hundreds of villages in the area, where girls have not even seen the building of a school. Twelve years back, when we (some of the educated youth of the village) established a fellowship school (from the platform...
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