Safe school buildings and classrooms, complete boundary walls, functioning toilets, clean drinking water, and provision of science laboratories are basic school facilities that contribute to a conducive learning school environment and increased enrollment.
One of the major parental concerns is their daughters’ safety and security that heightens due to the absence of complete boundary walls and non-gated girls’ schools and results in dropouts. In rural areas, pardah is mandatory for women and adolescent girls that must be considered while planning educational facilities for them.
Similarly, the unavailability or non-functionality of toilets in post-primary schools is another major barrier for girls to access education, especially beyond the primary level. Students attending schools without functional latrines are compelled to use toilets in neighboring houses, which inevitably becomes a point of concern for most parents. Since a sizeable women population does not have access to sanitary napkins, they use a piece of cloth instead, that is washed after every use. Hence, non-functional toilets in post-primary girls’ schools are a critical failing of the system forcing many adolescent girls to stay home during their menstrual cycle and incur learning losses.
Service-related barriers to education for girls include shortage of women teaching and administrative staff and absence of subject specialist teachers in science and mathematics. The introduction of school-based gender-responsive budgeting across Balochistan along with decentralization of the recruitment process at the school level would be appropriate strategies to address these challenges. The headteachers in consultation with School Management Committee members should be offered training to develop needs-based budgets, use the funds accordingly and have the authority to recruit teachers locally. Availability of school-based budgets will enable headteachers to timely address issues facing students such as shortage of teachers.
Another possible strategy includes encouraging fresh female college graduates or qualified female homemakers in the province to opt for the teaching profession. Such young professionals should then be deployed in girls’ schools on temporary contractual positions, especially at the post-primary level. In the long-run arrangements could be made to provide added benefits and incentives to teachers who choose to serve in remote areas.
Read: Children Are Returning #BackToSchool Without Drinking Water, Toilets & Electricity Amid The Pandemic
Similarly, capacity building programs for primary and middle school teachers should focus on providing grade-based customized trainings. This would result in the creation of a strong group of teachers specializing in the curriculum and syllabus specific to each grade at these educational levels.
Finally, flexibility in school timings for girls who may have to commute from afar could also serve as an important strategy to facilitate access to education in line with UNESCO’s module on “Flexible Learning Strategies,” so that the majority of students can be accommodated.
This article is part of the International Rescue Committee’s TEACH campaign. For more information please visit their Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram handles.