Malala Yousafzai was shot because of her belief that girls should have the opportunity for education. While Malala continues to recover, and has vowed to continue to campaign for girls’ education, education for girls remains controversial in some Muslim countries. A worldwide petition that started after the Malala incident in Pakistan, soon gained more than a million signatures, calling on the Pakistan Government and the United Nations to provide education for all girls.
A few weeks before her shooting, Malala told friends of her determination to campaign for the 32 million girls around the world who are not at school. Official statistics released by the Federal Education Ministry of Pakistan give a desperate picture of education for all, espcially for girls. The overall literacy rate is 46 per cent, while only 26 per cent of girls are literate. Independent sources and educational experts, however, are sceptical. They place the overall literacy rate at 26 per cent and the rate for girls and women at 12 per cent, contending that the higher figures include people who can handle little more than a signature. There are 163,000 primary schools in Pakistan, of which merely 40,000 cater to girls. Of these, 15,000 are in Punjab Province, 13,000 in Sind, 8,000 in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and 4,000 in Baluchistan.
Similarly, out of a total 14,000 lower secondary schools and 10,000 higher secondary schools, 5,000 and 3,000 respectively are for girls, in the same decreasing proportions as above in the four provinces. There are around 250 girls colleges, and two medical colleges for women in the public sector of 125 districts. Some 7 million girls under 10 go to primary schools, 5.4 million between 10 and 14 attend lower secondary school, and 3 million go to higher secondary schools. About 1.5 million and 0.5 million girls respectively go to higher secondary schools/colleges and universities.
Religious conservatism, poverty, social structures including feudalism, early marriage, the value placed on a girl, all contribute to the lack of investment in education for girls.
Pray for those committed to education of girls, for resources, for development that will impact and change society. Pray for Christian schools and colleges in Pakistan that are committed to educating girls and boys.