Nawaz Orakzai

KALAYA: When I reached fifth grade, my family dropped me out from school on the plea that I am growing up now and people may taunt them over my education.

This is the story of Kulsoom from Central Orakzai who had passion for getting education, but couldn’t do so because of opposition from parents and society at large. Kulsoom says she is not alone who has faced such an unfortunate ending to her early education, and there are thousands of other such examples. She says girls have no other option but to succumb to pressure exerted by family due to social taboos.

In the remote areas of merged tribal districts, the female education, particularly the higher education, is considered odd. What to talk of education, it is even considered odd for a woman to step outside her home without a male relative. Despite swift development in the field of education in rest of the world, the obsolete thinking about female education in some areas of merged districts could not be eliminated yet.

Azlaf Khan, a schoolteacher in Central Orakzai, said while talking to TNN that besides many other impediments the wrong choice of site for the girls schools is a major issue why people don’t send their girls to school. He said the government must make sure that girls need not cover long distances on foot to reach their school. He said awareness campaigns about the importance of female education must also be carried out in merged areas regularly. Azlaf Khan said many schools in Orakzai are built at such places where girls find it difficult to reach.

Muhammad Khalil, another schoolteacher, said people’s awareness level about importance of education on general level has enhanced, but perception about female education is the same. He said many people believe that girls will enter marriage as soon as they reach adulthood so there is no use of investing in her education.

A local elder, Malik Misal Khan said it is unfortunate that people in remote areas are still unable to understand importance of girls’ education. He said reforms in education sector and separate setup for girls education are genuine demands, but if people kept on depriving girls from education, then we may lag behind in development from rest of the world because an educated mother is a guarantee to a civilised society.