Education at a Price in Pakistan

By Sahib Khan. Sahib is a young writer from Pakistan. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

In March 2009, the Taliban took over the beautiful Swat valley in Pakistan. Sufi Muhammad, a chief of the Taliban, termed the constitution of Pakistan as ‘Un-Islamic’ and demanded the enforcement of the Sharia law. More than one million people fled Swat. The extremists committed atrocities such as beheading people openly in streets who rejected their law. The education of girls was opposed. Hundreds of girls’ schools were destroyed by the militants, and thousands of girls left schools in fear. The militants announced through their radio that “neither an old or young girl will be allowed to go to school.”

In this valley lived a girl known as Malala who strongly opposed the acts of the extremists. She wanted all girls to get an education. After several warnings from the Taliban, Malala did not refuse to step back and became a strong advocate for girls’ education. Her father was a huge support behind her. Nevertheless, on October 9, 2012, she was shot in the head by the Taliban while she was on her way home from school. The attack of the Taliban was the consequence of raising her voice against the banning of girls education. The Taliban did not know that Malala would grow up to raise her voice against them on a bigger platform in front of the whole world. With the passage of time, Malala received the Nobel Prize for the rights of girls’ education and became the youngest Nobel laureate at the age of just seventeen.

The other part of Pakistan — Baluchistan, where I live—is a very conservative state. The female literacy of this state is just 27 percent, despite the fact that it is the largest province of Pakistan. The capital city of Baluchistan, Quetta, is similar to Swat because it is also a valley, and the presence of the Taliban is felt there too. Besides the Taliban, there are many other extremist groups active in the capital that attack girls’ schools. Around 70,000 girls have dropped out of schools in Baluchistan after passing the primary level. The main reason for this is the attacks of extremists, and the other reason is that there are only primary schools for them in their villages; they are not permitted to go to bigger cities for further study.

In Pakistan, especially Baluchistan, education is a male privilege. The patriarchal traditions of the people of Baluchistan have deprived the female generation of their right to educational opportunities. It can also be stated that, since the Taliban are active in this province, they have succeeded in brainwashing the people. The Taliban have preached that education for girls is ‘Haram’ (forbidden) in Islam and is a ‘sin’, but that is not the truth. Allah tells Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in the Quran that,

“Say: ‘Can those who have the knowledge and those who do not be alike?’ So only the wise do receive the admonition.” (Qur’an, az-Zumar 39:9)

The other reason for privilege in education is wealth. The poor cannot get as good an education as the rich. There are many children — I see them daily—who beg in the streets and cannot afford to go to school; one of the main factors of low literacy rates is poverty. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) estimated that in the last decade of the 20th century, 11 million children were working in the country, half of whom were under ten. The child laborers mostly work in the factories. The dark side of child labor can be demonstrated by the story of Iqbal Maish, who was tied up and forced by his owner in the factory to work twelve hours a day at his loom when he was only nine or ten. Iqbal fled the factory twice and campaigned for the rights of children but he was killed by the factory owner.

While interviewing a child laborer I asked him a very simple question: why he was not going to school. He replied with total innocence on his face, “Who will earn for my family?” I could not answer his question. It stuck in my mind and I started to think about other thousands of children begging in the streets rather than sitting in school and getting an education. This is not only the case in Pakistan, but in almost every developing and underdeveloped country. The neighboring countries of Pakistan – India, Afghanistan, and Iran – are also facing the fact that education is a privilege on either the basis of gender or wealth.

According to my opinion, education is never a privilege. It is a basic human right in the twenty-first century just like food, shelter, and protection. Education is as essential as breathing. Without education, we are blind and deaf. How are we supposed to see without eyes? How are we supposed to hear without ears? How are we supposed to speak without tongues? Education is as important to us as eyes, ears, and tongues. In this era, a blind and deaf person can do nothing except begging. The awareness created by education has countless benefits, not only personally but also socially. A knowledgeable person knows the rights of everyone. He is the backbone of the progress of his country. He is a role model for others.

It is the time for the developing and underdeveloped countries of the world to strengthen themselves with the power of education. There is nothing as powerful as the power of a pen. As stated by Malala,

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

We ought to take steps now to ensure education is a right for the upcoming generation rather than a privilege. Only then we will be able to witness a world with peace and less chaos.


81 comments on “Education at a Price in Pakistan

  1. Nathan on

    There are certain things which I have come across several essays on the blog, and you have covered all those things in here. You have a great compilation of words. I believe that you will win.

    It was great to know about the story of Malala and her country.

  2. Ryan scott on

    “The child laborers mostly work in the factories. The dark side of child labor can be demonstrated by the story of Iqbal Maish, who was tied up and forced by his owner in the factory to work twelve hours a day at his loom when he was only nine or ten. Iqbal fled the factory twice and campaigned for the rights of children but he was killed by the factory owner.”

    I read the life story of Iqbal Masih. It was so emotional. I wish your country prospers.

  3. Khan on

    “Say: ‘Can those who have the knowledge and those who do not be alike?’ So only the wise do receive the admonition.” (Qur’an, az-Zumar 39:9)

    Beside this, there are many other verses you could have mentioned.

  4. Heisenberg on

    “At independence, 85 percent of the population was illiterate and in the more backward regions of the country, e.g., Balochistan, the literacy rate was even lower, with the rate for rural women therein being virtually zero.”

    As we surveyed.

  5. Zahir Masih on

    Current education system in Pakistan is also not satisfactory. In Pakistan education is being provided in six main levels: This is really poor.

    1: Pre-primary education (preparatory classes).

    2: primary education (grades one through five).

    3: middle schooling (grades six through eight).

    4: secondary school certificate (grades nine and ten).

    5: higher secondary school certificate (grades eleven and twelve).

    6: university education (graduation and higher study).

    There is a need of change. Thank you Sahib for highlighting these problems of our country.

  6. Robert Johnson on

    Literacy rate of Pakistan is lower than Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh which are poor, third world and under developed countries.

  7. Henry clay on

    NGOs are providing funds to the needy students and private schools. Colleges and universities are giving scholarships to their needy students. There are also merit scholarships available for the talented students. For example, there is NAMAL College in MIANWALI which is associated with the University of BRADFORD.

    Where is the result?

  8. Salman Niazi on

    Pakistan is a third world under developed country and making progress by leaps and bounds. In education system we need strong determination, love and sincerity with our new generation. We should make our grass root level strong. It is Government responsibility to solve administrative and management problems of Pakistan Education system.

  9. Shania on

    There must be the Public private partnership.
    There must be a check and balance system.
    There must be strong rules to avoid corruption in education.

    Then we can succeed.

  10. Mirza Baig on

    Furthermore, it is our bad luck that in our Pakistan in ministry of education every minister presents his own new policies instead of making a counsel of experts.

  11. Rabia Noreen on

    Finally, Lack of women education and co-education is another problem in Pakistan. There are many people against the co-education system.

  12. MCgregor Bolas on

    You people have to get education to tackle these problems. That is why your country is worse in education with a literacy rate of 58% that too, is declining.

  13. Robert Carlos on

    An uncompromising adherence to the rule of law, freedom of speech and conscience, social justice and equality for all citizens, are the essence of his legacy; a legacy he wants the nation of Pakistan to uphold in the future.

  14. James on

    The education system of Pakistan is comprised of 260,903 institutions and is facilitating 41,018,384 students with the help of 1,535,461 teachers. The system includes 180,846 public institutions and 80,057 private institutions. Hence 31% educational institutes are run by private sector while 69% are public institutes.

    I mean look at these states, they prove those things which our common percpetion can not.

  15. Aleksandr on

    The story of iqbal was very emotional. He did alot at a very young age. Iqbal refused to go back to the carpet mill where he had worked because he knew his rights as a citizen. 🙁

    Although a child labor law existed in Pakistan, it was not enforced. Soon, speaking out against the mills, he gained international attention. Iqbal eventually started making speeches around the world, talking about child labor and his life experiences. 🙂


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