ISLAMABAD: Human rights campaigners, political figures and civil society activists at a conference here on Tuesday said the future of Pakistan will remain bleak without girls’ education.
The conference: “Empowerment through girls education in contemporary Muslim societies” was jointly organised by Oxfam and Pakistan Coalition for Education with support from Dubai Cares.
The speakers said the passage of 18th Amendment had changed the dynamics of education sector in Pakistan. “Education is no longer a privilege but a fundamental right for all children in the country.”
Oxfam Country Director Neva Khan outlined the importance of addressing education in Pakistan and said education for girls in particular was the key to building economies and overcoming social problems. “Pakistan and other Muslim societies could learn from each others’ experiences,” she said.
Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq, who was the chief guest, said though there had been some achievements much needed to be done.
“It’s high time the government prioritised education and allocated more funds to this sector,” he said.
Provincial bodies and civil society needed to be empowered to raise the level of education services.
“We should start campaigns at the grass-roots level, in rural areas in particular, to improve access and address barriers to education for girls,” he added.
Zaleha Abdul Hamid, an educationist associated with the ministry of education in Malaysia, explained that Kuala Lumpur’s spending of 15.4 per cent of its GDP on education compared to Pakistan’s less than 2 per cent reflected its political will to educate its children.
Harris Khalique said religious extremism could be countered by empowering women through education. “What is happening in Muslim societies is a grave disservice to Islam,” he added.
Former head of Council of Islamic Ideology Dr Khalid Masud said education was seen as ‘transfer of information’ rather than a process of ‘intellectual development’.
To change this approach, he said, the public needed to be empowered so that political figures were forced to justify and defend their policies.
Dr A. H. Nayyar of Ali Institute of Education said whereas donors could provide some funds, it was the responsibility of the government to provide the needed resources to the education sector.