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Pakistan behind Nepal, India in girls’ education

Amin Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: Released in the wake of an armed attack on teenage education activist Malala Yousufzai, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report shows that Pakistan’s progress in getting poor girls into schools is less than half that of India’s and Nepal’s and a quarter of Bangladesh’s.

The report released by Unesco here on Thursday reveals that though Pakistan has the second largest number of out-of-school girls in the world, yet it has reduced the amount it spends on education to less than 2.3 per cent of GNP. Only nine low- and lower-middle-income countries spend a smaller share on education. The barriers to education faced by Pakistani girls are stark in comparison with the rest of South Asia.

These findings were issued by the World Inequalities Database of Education, a website of the EFA Global Monitoring Report team, showing how factors such as gender, poverty, location and ethnicity affect a child’s chances at education.

A two-thirds of the out-of-school children in Pakistan are girls; only 16 countries have a worse rate.

Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world – five million.

The country’s progress in reducing the number of poor girls being denied a chance of education has been too slow. The percentage of poorest girls out of school has fallen from 78 per cent to 62 per cent, a much smaller drop than in India (from 66 per cent to 30 per cent), Nepal (52 per cent to 22 per cent) and Bangladesh (91 per cent to 44 per cent).

EFA Global Monitoring Report Director Pauline Rose said that “since 1999 when governments around the world committed to getting all children into school, countries like Pakistan have managed to consistently fail to address” the issue.

“We must put girls first if we’re to crack this challenge. Two-thirds of girls in the poorest areas in Pakistan are still not getting the chance of an education – a rate that is not appropriate for 21st century.”

According to the report, although the number of Pakistani children denied education is surpassed only by Nigeria, the country has reduced spending on education from 2.6 per cent of GNP in 1999 to 2.3 per cent today.

“The hope is that the tragic violence against Malala will bring shame on a country which has ignored the rights of its girls to an education for too long. Pakistan spends less on education than it spends to subsidise just three of its loss-making public sector enterprises – the national airline (and the) steel and electricity companies. Pakistan also spends less on education than it does on the military. Its priorities have to change,” the UN official said.

The Global Monitoring Report 2012 shows over a third of young Pakistanis – 12 million – do not have the skills they need for work. This is the second highest number of unskilled young people in the world.