By: MOHAMMAD ASHFAQ
PESHAWAR: Every fourth girl student of those enrolled in government schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is compelled to get education at primary level in government schools for boys due to shortage of educational institutions for girls.
There is a wide disparity between the number of primary schools for boys and girls, as successive governments and people gave little importance to the girls education, according to sources in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) Department.
Presently, there are 14,963 primary schools for 1.58 million boy students and 8,110 schools for 1.26 million girls enrolled in the government primary schools, according to official data available with Dawn.
As the successive governments failed to construct schools for girls on need basis over the years, around 315,000 girl students are getting education in the boys’ schools across the province.
Similarly, a big difference has also been found on the secondary level between the number of students and schools for them. There are 1,528 middle schools for boys and 1,049 for girls; 1,333 high schools for boys and 647 for girls; and 231 higher secondary schools for boys and 114 for girls in the province.
The number of government schools, particularly for girls at primary level, is well below the requirement, said one of the district education officers. “In the absence of girl schools in some areas of the province, the parents have no option but to send their daughters to the boys schools for education,” he said.
Asked about continuation of girls’ education after primary level, the DEO said: “Definitely, such students will stay at home because girls at middle, high and higher secondary schools could not share school with the boys because of cultural taboos.” He said that most of the people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did not accept co-education for their daughters beyond primary level.
He observed that around 20 years ago the trend of sending girls to schools was not so common and people at that time insisted on construction of boys schools in their areas. “That is why we have still less number of schools for girls despite efforts to remove the disparity,” he said.
Sources in the E&SE Department told Dawn that the previous Awami National Party-led provincial government had decided to construct 70 per cent of new primary schools for girls and 30 per cent for boys.
However, they said, the government under the annual development scheme had planned to construct 150 primary schools, of them 100 for girls. He said that if special initiatives were not taken on urgent basis it would take several decades to equalise the number of schools for boys and girls. When contacted, Provincial Minister for E&SE Mohammad Atif Khan said that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was making efforts to encourage girls education in the province and provide more opportunities to them in its limited resources.
He said that the government had introduced different stipend schemes. He said that the education department had been giving 50 per cent additional salaries to the female supervisory staff in hard areas to ensure the presence of teachers in schools..