It is tragically evident that, to some extent, women worldwide are left without access to education and are often completely deprived of this opportunity. However, scientifically, women tend to have better mental faculties for comprehending the subjects taught in educational institutions compared to men. Despite this advantage, women have been consistently overlooked in various parts of the world due to pervasive gender discrimination. Men can move freely while women remain confined, and while men receive education without obstacles, women must often fight with their families for this basic right. In many cases, women’s decisions are even controlled by men.
Pakistan, in particular, is composed of four provinces, one of which is Balochistan. This province, rich in natural resources, is unfortunately plagued by a grim statistic: 75% of children are out of school, and women’s education is rarely given the attention it deserves. According to a UNICEF Pakistan report, only 27 percent of women in Balochistan attend schools, making it one of the worst regions for women’s education worldwide.
Most dishearteningly, many families in Balochistan are trapped in severe poverty. Even after strenuous labor, they can barely provide two meals a day. Given these circumstances, families struggle to arrange transportation for their children to attend schools, and the lack of educational institutions in their areas further compounds the problem. As a result, many children are forced to forgo their education.
Digging deeper into this distressing issue, I came across a village named Khairabad where women’s education is hindered by the absence of educational institutions and the prevalent poverty.
Khairabad, a remote area located in eastern Balochistan, has been deprived of education due to the dire lack of educational facilities, particularly for females. Despite having a substantial female population, only a small number of girls are enrolled in educational programs, leaving the majority without access to education.
Sammi, a highly motivated student from Khairabad, aspired to continue her education after completing her matriculation. She was determined to pursue her future goals. Unfortunately, her dreams were shattered when her parents could not afford to send her to a city for further education. Consequently, she had to abandon her aspirations, becoming one of the countless victims of this issue.
In addition to the absence of institutions in the area and the prevailing poverty, early marriage is another significant factor leading girls to drop out of education. In Balochistan, six percent of girls aged 15 and 23 percent of women aged 20 are forced into early marriages, a devastating practice for countless young girls. According to a report, Makran has the highest incidence of early marriages at 23 percent, followed by Nasirabad at 22 percent. This calamity continues to plague the province, ruining the educational prospects of girls like Iqra.
Iqra, a diligent and dedicated student, was forcibly married off by her parents, abruptly ending her dreams of pursuing higher education. Her story is not unique; there are thousands of untold stories of girls who are compelled into early marriages in Balochistan.
Furthermore, the long distances to schools present another obstacle to education. Rural areas of Balochistan face similar challenges, with a large number of women unable to attend classes due to the scarcity of women’s schools. While schools can be found, they are often situated at considerable distances, making regular attendance difficult for women. According to Alif Ailaan’s 2017 report, there is approximately one primary school for every 30 kilometers in Balochistan, a middle school for every 260 kilometers, and a high school for every 369 kilometers.
Hoshab, a sub-Tehsil of District Kech, located in eastern Makran, grapples with the issue of long distances. In Hoshab, girls must cover a 17-kilometer distance to reach their school and continue their education. Residents have lodged numerous complaints and grievances. Furthermore, the lack of transportation in rural areas makes it even more challenging for girls to commute long distances to attend classes regularly, posing safety concerns for those traveling by foot.
Additionally, in Dera Bugti and Panjgur districts of Balochistan, women are denied access to education by religious extremists who vehemently oppose educating women. Co-educational institutions have been targeted and threatened with closure. There have even been instances of school vans being set on fire and attacks on schools by these extremists. After one such incident, a school remained closed for several years, resulting in the loss of a teacher who was dedicated to promoting women’s education in the region. When he was killed, the efforts to advance women’s education in these areas regressed. The motivations behind these extremist actions remain unclear.
In conclusion, one cannot help but wonder how we are living in a country where laws seem to hold little sway. To demonstrate their competence, the current government of Balochistan needs to take decisive steps to address the educational challenges faced by women in the region. It is imperative to closely monitor how the government tackles the issue of women’s education in Balochistan.