Missing out on an education
In Pakistan in 2002, just over half of school-age children were attending school, and less than three-quarters of boys and girls completed grade five.
To help more children and particularly girls attend school, UNICEF is working with the Pakistani Government and local communities to create child-friendly schools. To reduce travel, these schools are built where students live. They offer free, quality education in safe, healthy environments for all students, especially girls and disabled children.
More teachers are being trained to teach in more active ways, with less rote learning and without the use of corporal punishment. This helps students learn and develops their confidence, and makes schools happier and safer places. Likewise, smaller class sizes mean that students can learn more easily. In addition, teachers are provided with ongoing teacher training through monthly mentoring programs.
Women are offered scholarships to train as teachers. With more female teachers, schools are better able to teach girls. Female teachers also provide a role model for girls and for other women, and their monthly salary helps their families.
The Pakistani Government is reducing the cost of schooling for parents by supplying free textbooks. UNICEF supplies schools with materials including exercise books, pencils, erasers and scissors, as well as teaching materials such as clocks, plastic cubes for counting, posters and coloured paper and paints.
Recreation, play and good nutrition promote students’ health and improve their ability to concentrate. Schools are supplied with a recreation kit that includes balls for several types of games, coloured tunics for different teams, chalk and a measuring tape for marking play areas, and a whistle and scoring slate.
Adequate toilets, including separate toilets for girls and boys, make schools safer and healthier. Parents and community leaders may recognise the health benefits of providing safe water and toilets and begin to build their own facilities.
Pakistan has made big improvements in educating children. The percentage of school-age children who are enrolled in primary schools rose from 46% in 1990–91 to 85% in 2009. The percentage of those enrolled who reached grade 5 rose from 50% to 61% (male 68%, female 54%) during the same period. Work is ongoing to improve schools in rural areas and to promote changes in attitudes to educating girls.
Changing thinking about girls
In some parts of Pakistan traditional culture dictates that girls start wearing the burqa, a gown covering them from head to foot, when they are ten. They are expected to stay at home and can go outside only if they are accompanied by a male relative. These rules make attending school very difficult.
Teachers visit parents of girls to help them understand the school program. Parents learn how an education can open up the world for their daughters by teaching them skills that will help them earn an income, avoid being exploited and produce more able and healthier children. The teachers also answer questions and address parents’ concerns in an effort to encourage them to keep their daughters at school.
UNICEF has been actively encouraging communities to change their thinking about the value of educating girls. A cartoon character, Meena, shows girls what they can do. Meena and her pet parrot talk in an amusing way about serious issues such as education, early marriage, and the unequal distribution of food and workloads. Young girls and boys learn a different way of thinking and behaving.