Pakistan has made considerable progress in education, particularly in urban areas. However, in poor rural areas, technology-equipped small community centers could make all the difference. Is it true that or have we not taken a more innovative look at solving real problems? An innovative look will have ground impact to show that technology can help improve access, reduce costs and enhance services, money and information in the rural context and bring better opportunities for a large swath of population.There is no denying that education is the most important right of every girl; therefore, government, society and family should play their due role to fulfill their right to education.
A. BASIC SERVICES
To start, Education, Health and Security can be lumped under ‘Basic Services’. Even these are currently not available for core Pakistanis in many parts and any improvement in their delivery and distribution and ‘last mile’ capabilities will have a direct life saving impact.
There is lot of work done on rural education so I will not delve on it in depth. In a nutshell, as Internet broadband connectivity improves, it is opening endless opportunities for online learning and teaching, skills development and work-from-home schemes.
There are significant barriers to this in our patriarchal feudalistic society but the control variables decrease with Internet and there is hope for the most remote and oppressed people to get opportunities to learn.
However, one of the major aspects to be understood from a long term perspective is that you teach people employable skills to make them independent, and the same can be achieved via Internet. But we will cover this in one of our later discussions.
2.Progress in urban areas
Over the period of time, Pakistan has made considerable progress in girl’s education, particularly in urban areas. One can see increasing efforts and acceptance from the government, society and family towards girl’s education.There are four major aspects with regards to technology utilization within the context of rural Pakistan for services and impact delivery. Some of the ideas and potential have been tried in other parts of the world and some are more particular to Pakistan’s context but all are workable.
The significant growth in the number of educated girls in the country has resulted in a number of success stories. The higher passing percentage of girls and their superior performance in clinching top positions in matriculation and intermediate examinations are some of the positive signs of country’s progress.
Not only the passing percentage of girls at school and college level, their significant presence in professional colleges and universities clearly tells that the system and the society is giving them favorable chances of growth. The available conducive atmosphere creates opportunities for thousands of girls to fully utilize their potential and achieve success in all fields.
3.More career focused
The growing proportion of educated girls has presented a significant and pleasant change in Pakistan’s urban areas. Our girls are now more career focused, resulting in a relatively higher age at marriage, decline in maternal mortality and family size are some positive indicators visible in big cities of the country.
Despite significant progress in improving girls’ access to education, a large number of girls, especially from the poor, marginalized and rural areas, continue to be deprived of their fundamental right to education.
Pauline Rose, Director of the Global Monitoring Report, in her article, “Girls’ education in Pakistan: victim of conflict and commitment” published in October 2012 stated that, “ Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world– over 5 million – and the second highest number of girls out of school.”
A depreciating currency, growing poverty, poor economy, unemployment and increasing food prices have left very few options for poor households to send their girls to schools. Poor law and order situation and militant activities in some areas have further reduced the chances of education for girls in the country.
4.Lack of opportunity for the poor
Many poor girls have never had the opportunity to be enrolled in any school despite the fact that government or NGOs managed free schools are located in their vicinity. It is a fact that people, even in rural areas, have become quite aware of the importance of education. However, involvement of girls in domestic chores, taking care of younger siblings and early marriages are some of the hurdles in girl’s education.
The issue of restricted mobility for girls, especially in conservative social setting, is very critical. Many girls have failed to attend or continue their education because schools, mostly secondary and high, are located far away from their homes or school timings are not accommodating for them.
Girls’ right to education is well recognized in Pakistan at government and society level. However inclusion of all girls, without considering their geographical, social or financial background, in educational system is a serious issue of concern.Rural projects and investments can be built around the structures of crowdsourcing sites like kickstarter where rural projects can be loaded for bidding by NGOs and agencies and project can be awarded on eLance style of payment and delivery milestones. The pictures and SMS integration to get updates will ensure reporting not only from the project owners but also from the population and visitors alike.
5.Wide range of issues
A wide range of issues including lack of funding, inefficiency, corruption, poor monitoring, political based appointments, ghost schools, girls’ restricted mobility and gender based discriminations are some conspicuous challenges to address by the government, civil society organizations and international development agencies.
Interventions should be planned, if schools are not geographically accessible or their timings are not suitable for girls. Community based and technology equipped small community centers can be established to provide formal education through web-based instruction. It is important to mention that there are two primary models of web-based instruction: synchronous (instructor-facilitated) and asynchronous (self-directed, self-paced).
The bottom line for any community comes down to what they earn, how it can be enhanced or improved and how can they get a better deal. Poverty alleviation through cottage industry development can be supported through using technology and community portals to provide direct access to the people for the improvement of livelihoods.
One of the big advantages that Pakistan can avail with NADRA and Computerized National Identity Cards (CNIC) is to ensure services delivery integration8 with this database for authentication, verification, bank accounts and details storage and structured APIs to connect to authenticate users using phone, smart cards and voice recognition technologies. This will help reduce fraud and pilferage significantly and help us help the people on the ground who truly deserve this.A tripartite agreement between the government, funding agencies and community based organizations could be forged to initiate and execute the scholarship program for rural girls.