With only 27% of women literate in the province, Balochistan has one of the lowest female literacy rates in the world. This statement is further validated by the fact that 75% or an estimated 1 million girls of school-going age in Balochistan are currently out of school.
Several push-out-of-school and pull-out-of-school factors are at play to propel the vicious cycle that constantly deprives girls in the province of accessing their basic right to education.
Reports state that in the urban areas of Balochistan, there are only 36 secondary schools for every 100 primary schools. The situation becomes further troublesome in the rural areas where for every 100 primary schools there are only 18 secondary schools.
In simple words, even if every child in Balochistan otherwise had favorable circumstances to graduate from the primary to the secondary level, the majority of them would still not be able to do so simply because of the unavailability of secondary schools in their area.
The fall-out of this situation inevitably impacts girls disproportionately. And so, not very surprisingly, for every 100 girls enrolled at the secondary level in Balochistan 666 girls of the same age group are out-of-school.
As if an acute lack of secondary schools were not a huge concern itself, the school infrastructure that does exist lacks basic facilities such as electricity, water, and toilets.
In the rural areas of Balochistan, 80.6% of primary and 58.7% of secondary schools lack electricity whereas in the urban areas 74.6% of primary and 35.4% of secondary schools remain unelectrified.
Similarly, 41% of primary and 41.1% secondary schools in the rural areas and 43.9% primary and 31.9% secondary schools in urban Balochistan are waterless.
Furthermore, 72.8% of primary and 30.9% of secondary schools in rural Balochistan and 64.2% of primary and 22.4% of secondary schools in urban areas of Balochistan do not have toilets.
Needless to say, a lack of schools coupled with the absence of basic facilities together make it impossible for the majority of girls to continue their education beyond Grade 5.
Supply-side issues that curtail girls’ access to education in Balochistan should not be seen in isolation. They have a direct and strong causal relationship with demand-side, pull-out-of-school factors.
And so, while addressing demand-side issues standing in the way of girls’ access to education must certainly remain on the agenda, little can be achieved without an all-out effort to address barriers inherent to the public education system in the province. Without an urgent, concerted, and consistent response to the problem, the literacy rate of Balochistan will continue to remain dismal having a direct bearing on the province’s prospects to develop and prosper.