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For girls in Khanpur, going to college is like going to China

By: Muhammad Sadaqat

HARIPUR: For girls in Khanpur, going to school might as well be going to China. Promises alone do not a school make, and neither do they ensure higher literacy.

The establishment of degree college for women in Khanpur was announced by Provincial Higher Education Minister Qazi Muhammad Asad about two years back. Another girls college promised at the nearby Serae Saleh was inaugurated but the college in Khanpur was put on the backburner for reasons unexplained. An official, asking not to be named, said that the reason behind the delay was the unavailability of land for the building.

So what do these girls do? They drop out, according to Ibrar Khan, a teacher. The dropout rate of girls at the degree level in Khanpur has increased “considerably”, he added.

According to the last countrywide census conducted in 1998, the overall literacy rate in Haripur was 53.7 per cent, substantially higher than the 35.2 per cent rate in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. However, female literacy was 37.4 per cent, compared with the male literacy rate of 63.6 per cent.

From Jandial to Mang, Tarava, Kharian and Pir Sohava, there are over 80 villages with a population of over 400,000. In contrast, there are only two higher secondary schools for women, with 200 to 250 students enrolled there, according to official sources.

Of these, 120 to 140 students are promoted to degree classes, said officials. However, half of them end up quitting because their families can’t afford the cost of education, or are unwilling to go against the cultural taboo that prohibit them from sending their girls far away from home.

“A small fraction of these girls (who dropped out) still try to appear for humanities exams as private candidates despite being capable enough to take engineering, medical, IT, social and natural sciences if they had half a chance,” said Raja Shahid, a resident of Khanpur.

Those who choose to continue studies have to pursue further education at Frontier Education Post-Graduate College for Women, Haripur’s lone government degree college, or the colleges of Wah Cantonment or Taxila.

This isnÂ’t always feasible. “Sending girls away to Haripur, Taxila and other distant areas is a problem in itself. Due to the worsening economic and law and order situation faced by the villagers, life has become difficult for those dependent on a small income,” Asad, a social activist stated.

For women who want to pursue their education, the problems don’t end there: public transport is another issue, with girls having to travel in overloaded buses. Consequently, they are vulnerable to both, violence and discrimination in public places. “I keep on praying for my daughter all the time until she returns to us safely,” said Shabnam, a resident of the Khoe Nara village. She added that she walked her daughter to and from the bus stop for the last two years.
Source: The Express Tribune

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