TERRORISM AND FEMALES' RESOLVE TO EDUCATION

SHAMSUL GHANI (feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Feb 8 - 14, 2010

Gone are the days when boys overwhelmingly occupied top positions in any form of educational examinations. It should not be surprising if in our male dominated society, females have vehemently refused to be the pushovers. The reason is simple and straight. Girls are lot more focused and disciplined. Given the culture we are living in, it is not easy for them to leave the four-walls of their homes at will and enroll at some educational institution. But, once they are able to do it, they show their real mettle and start to outsmart their male counterparts by excelling in the pursuit of studies.

TABLE-1: FEMALE ENROLMENT IN PUBLIC & PRIVATE SECTOR EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

YEAR PRIMARY
STAGE (I-V)
MIDDLE STAGE
(VI-VIII)
HIGH SCHOOL
STAGE (IX-X)
ARTS/ SCIENCE
COLLEGES
PROFESSIONAL
COLLEGES
UNIVERSITIES
2000-01 5559000 1706000 675000 283000 149600 36699
2001-02 5871000 1506000 644000 285000 148000 101770
2002-03 6132000 1551000 658000 306000 158400 128066
2003-04 6606000 1737000 709000 338000 163059 178723
2004-05 7219000 1863000 756000 321000 130896 195555
2005-06 7288000 2169000 882000 428000 198208 212997
2006-07 7416000 2241000 849000 456000 212085 294997
2007-08-P 7539000 2259000 1003000 480000 214206 342125
2008-09-E 7623000 2289000 1043000 497000 219539 342125

According to a Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) 2007-08, Pakistan's combined literacy rate was 56 per cent with male and female literacy rates at 69 and 44 per cent respectively. With the female population comprising 48 percent of the total population, the literacy rate differential betrays a sort of gender bias. The gender difference in the education sector is attributed to a number of social, economic and political factors: the centuries-old gender inequality bias, overburdening of female with household duties, parental lack of concern for female education, obscurantist norms in underdeveloped areas, decades-old feudal mindset blocking women progress, disposable income constraints, government failure to provide free and compulsory education on gender equality basis at least up to a certain level, and the last but more important, the terrorists' resolve to ban female education.

The female education statistics shown in the table 1 suggest that only 9.76 percent of the total female population is enrolled at the primary level. The major dropout change occurs at the middle stage level when only 2.93 percent of the total female population manages to move to the middle stage level. This percentage tapers down to 1.34 at high stage level. What is a bit heartening is the fact that 68.7 percent of the girls enrolled at high stage level manage to move to arts, science, and professional colleges. The percentage becomes still higher if the number of failures in high school exams is factored in. This proves that once they are through the high stage level, the girls become more focused and more determined to finish graduation.

The changed geopolitical scenario after 9/11 has brought in its fold a number of traumatic compulsions that have deeply affected lives in the country. The wave of terrorism unleashed by these developments has changed social priorities. The security concerns ranking high on social agenda have their bearing on education, particularly the female education. The blowing up of girls' schools in northern areas has restricted the school-going girls to the four-walls of their houses making their educational pursuit a difficult and uncertain proposition. The terrorist attacks on schools in other parts of the country have spread shock waves among the nervous and fearful parents, many of whom have forced their female kids to opt out of their study program.

The female education in Pakistan, though presently reeling under the threat of terrorism, has great resilience that is attributed to the latent female resolve to achieve educational supremacy.

TABLE 2: NUMBER OF EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS BY KIND, LEVEL,
AND SEX

YEAR HIGH SCHOOLS SECONDARY
VOCATIONAL
SCHOOLS
ARTS AND SCIENCE
COLLEGES
PROFESSIONAL
COLLEGES
. MALE FEMALE MALE FEMALE MALE FEMALE MALE FEMALE
2000-01 10200 4600 394 236 1019 691 195 171
2001-02 10500 4600 368 239 1053 731 199 177
2002-03 10800 4800 355 230 1087 768 200 186
2003-04 11000 5100 384 252 1167 822 220 206
2004-05 11300 5300 1399 1460 920 684 346 331
2005-06 14800 8100 3059 NA 1512 1484 471 664
2006-07 14600 9000 NA NA 1675 1420 535 631
2007-08-P 14600 9300 NA NA 1729 1489 549 649
2008-09_E 14600 9700 NA NA 1801 1491 575 644

Female high schools that were 31 per cent of the total male and female high schools in 2000-01 went up to 39 per cent in 2007-08. The percentage of female secondary vocational schools also increased from 37.5 in 2000-01 to 39.6 in 2004-05; official figures are not available for later period. Similarly, the percentage of female arts and science colleges increased from 40.4 in 2000-01 to 46.3 in 2007-08. Female professional colleges in 2000-01 were 46.7 per cent of the total professional colleges. This percentage went up to 54.2 in 2007-08. These trends show that gradually but surely, the women folk are making its presence felt in the arena of education. This appears to be the legendry tale of hare and tortoise. The hare of the tale is once again set to loose the race. The educational advancement of women is a welcome sign. In the view of the obscurantism we have seen in this country and the ongoing terrorism, we take this development as a silver lining of great importance. Dr. Anita Weiss, a US researcher, concluded in her recent survey of Swat that despite the terrorism threat, the morale of Swati women, particularly the young girls, was very high and they wanted to carry out their educational pursuits to transform themselves into better citizens.