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Pakistan’s

constitution commits the country to the provision of quality education for all children. Despite efforts to improve access, this commitment is far from being realised. A lack of reliable data makes it difficult to assess the number of out of school children, but estimates indicate an alarming 25%. Analysis of education indicators shows that access to schooling across the country is marked by deep disparities based on gender, geographic location and wealth. Gender inequality is evident in school enrolment: nearly 40% of primary school age girls are not attending school, compared to 30% of primary school age boys. There are a range of barriers to school attendance. One of the most important is finance. Children from poorer households in rural areas and urban slums have the highest probability of being out of school. Children belonging to low-income families are nearly six times more likely to be out of school compared to children growing up in richer households. Boys are affected, but girls are more: where families can afford to educate only one child, girls are often left behind. Financial barriers range from the inability to afford school fees (despite the provision of low fee private schools), to the inability to afford uniforms and school books, which have implications for children not only accessing schools but staying in school for longer. Another financial barrier is the opportunity cost of education: children who are not in school are able to support their families through labour wages or domestic work. In the more conservative parts of Pakistan, girls may have limited access to schooling because mobility is both a geographic and a cultural challenge. In a context where females are seldom seen outside their homes, there may be cultural barriers that prevent girls travelling to school. Added to this limitation, is the distance between schools and homes, with girls discouraged from walking long distances to access schools because of safety concerns. The challenge is the need to raise awareness and change mindsets, but also to ensure that schools are located near the community, and that transport options are available. Some progress has been achieved. In Punjab, according to Nielsen Household Surveys, the participation rate for girls has increased from 83% in November 2011 to 89% in June 2015. One successful approach, adopted in Punjab and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has involved partnering with the private sector. Under the DFID-funded Punjab Education Sector Programme 2, civil society organisations and the Punjab Education Foundation provide free schooling for children across low performing districts of Punjab, in areas where there are no schools within 1 km of the community. The project also includes community mobilisation, to build awareness of the benefits of education for all children, especially girls.

Others

3%

Health of child

8%

Special Education

8%

Reasons for a child not going to school in Punjab %

Access

38

16%

Closing the Gender Gap  
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