The Citizens Foundation (TCF) presented a panel discussion on ‘Education of Girls: Perceptions & Realities in a changing Pakistan’ in 9th Karachi Literature Festival (KLF). The session panelists were Sania Saeed – Actor, Nadia Naviwala – Wilson Center Global Fellow & Freelance Writer, Sidra Saleem – MBBS & TCF Alumna 2009 and Zaitoon Kareem – Lecturer & TCF Alumna 2004. The session was moderated by Riaz Kamlani, VP at TCF.
The session was in full attendance with people even standing at the back of the hall. The session started off with the question exploring the crisis of education in Pakistan, especially for girls and its varying dimensions. Nadia shared some interesting statistics mentioning, “The positive news is that parents want their children both boys and girls to get education. In urban Punjab, there are actually more girls in schools than boys. However, the situation in rural is a bit different. One of the biggest reasons impeding girls education in these areas is the issue of mobility.”
Adding to this, Sania Saeed shared her perspective and experience, “It is true that mobility of school is a major challenge in getting education for both boys and girls in the rural and remote areas of Pakistan. However, the discrimination still exists. Parents prefer to send boys to school over girls if they are given the choice. I think we are failing our children by not taking education them, by not providing them education that is sufficient and up to date. You need to educate a child at their level; education should encourage their dreams and aspirations instead of snubbing them.”
She said, “Providing education in every nook and corner of the country should be like a war for us and that’s what it is for civilian organizations like TCF that are taking education to the remotest areas. This is the war we all need to fight.”
Talking about her education experience, Sidra said, “I live in the katchi abadi of Ibrahim goth. My father moved to Karachi from Naushero Feroz a few years before I was born. Both my parents are not educated but ensured that their children got the education. After completing my matric from TCF and intermediate from PECHS College, I got admission in DOW University of Health Sciences on merit. All of my siblings have completed their tertiary education and are now pursuing successful careers. My eldest sister is in civil services working with Pakistan Audit & Accounts Service. On both conscious and unconscious level, I can think of many people who could not get educated because they had limited to no access to a school.”
Sharing her experience, Zaitoon said, “I grew up in a small katchi abadi near airport called Bhittaiabad. When TCF school opened its doors in this area, I got admission in this school. Before TCF, I was studying in a public school. In a class of 70 students, I used to sit right in the end because I was afraid of my teachers. In a TCF school, I learned to love education and look up to my teachers. Today, I am a lecturer myself and I take pride in educating children in a way that is in line with their personal aspirations. My mother was the one who took a stand for myself and my sisters to get education. My father was not too happy about this but his resistance mellowed down a little when he got to know that TCF has an all-female faculty. I’m currently pursuing my PhD in Literature; my research topic is comparative study of Balochi and Urdu Literature.”
62% of the girls in Pakistan have never been to school. TCF is committed to change the current education status-quo. The not-for-profit is now Pakistan’s leading organisation in the field of education for the less privileged. Today, it is operating 1,441+ purpose-built schools across Pakistan located in urban slums and rural communities, educating 204,000+ students with 12,000 female teachers in 58 districts. This makes TCF the largest private network of schools and the top female employer enabling low-fee quality education for the less privileged. TCF is a strong advocate of the belief that a truly informed and educated society forms the foundation of a progressive state and instils in its citizens the ability to adapt and evolve with changing times. The organisation ensures that girls represent nearly 50% of overall student enrolment.