Sidra Ayan & Sana

MARDAN: Twenty-one years old Laiba feels sorry for herself when she sees her ex-classmates going forward in education. She feels she could have been like her friend Kiran, who is a medical student, or like Mehwish, who is a schoolteacher nowadays.

Laiba was a brilliant student, but she had to leave education unwillingly at fourth grade due to poverty.

“When I asked my parents about admission in another school which was situated at a considerable distance from our house, they told me that they can hardly arrange two-time meal and cannot afford to spend on my education,” Laiba told TNN.

Like Laiba, countless other students had to leave education due to poverty, social constraints, security or other issues. According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Department data of 2018, 44 percent students were leaving education at primary level and 40 percent at high school level. The same year, a survey showed that the main reasons behind dropouts were poverty, lack of interest and shortage of schools.

Keeping in view these problems, the KP government allocated more budget for education during the last three years. The major steps include establishment of new schools and payment of cash to girls students on ensuring attendance. However, these steps could not change the situation and the ratio of dropouts is almost the same.

Assistant District Education Officer (ADEO) Mardan Musarrat Jabeen said under the stipend program, girls students get scholarship over ensuring over 80 percent attendance. She said about 61,000 girls are enrolled with her for stipend.

Sajjad, a social activist, said there is lack of awareness about girls education in Mardan and rest of KP. He said the main reason behind girls dropouts is that the parents think the girls would be married off soon and in-laws many not allow them to do job, so there is no use of this ‘investment’. He appealed to parents to fix marriage of their girls carefully and make sure that the career or education of girls continues with marriage.

According to a report of Human Rights Watch in 2018, shortage of government schools is one of main reasons behind girls dropout. In Pakistan, 5.22 million children don’t go to school and most of them are girls. On primary level, 32 percent girls and 21 percent boys are out of school.

Sajjad Ali said Pakhtuns want a lady doctor to treat their women and lady teacher to teach their girls, but when they won’t educate their girls then how they would become doctors and teachers.

However, there are many other girls, who are continuing their education despite all difficulties.

One of them is Maleeha from Takht Bhai, who faced opposition from family and cultural impediments bravely to reach to college level.

“From primary level onward, the journey of education was too difficult as everyone had objection on my education with exception of my father who supported my always,” she said.

ADEO Mardan Musarrat Jabeen said girls schools are being upgraded to resolve the problem of schools shortage.