Pakistan: Shaping Girls' Education Environment

In Kyhber Pakhtunkhwa, a state in north western Pakistan, a great number of refugees from neighboring Afghanistan are residing. However, without even basic infrastructure such as a clean water system, both refugees and local residents are forced to live a difficult way of life. In order to deliver a brighter future for the children who will one day inherit the country, AAR Japan, since 2011, has been working to improve primary schools by adding more classrooms and sanitation facilities including toilets and washrooms. At present, AAR Japan continues to provide assistance to young girls commuting to and from school in Haripur district, which holds 3 refugee camps and is said to have around 84,000 refugees. The schools within the refugee camps, as well as the Pakistani schools that are accepting refugees, are our primary focus.
Children from one of the schools at the refugee camps(Nov.30th,2016)

Why girls cannot go to school

Although there are some 613 elementary boy’s schools in Haripur district, there are only 356 elementary schools for girls, roughly half the number. Against the backdrop of a culture where opportunities for girls to receive an education are extremely limited, discriminatory remarks such as “Girls don’t need an education” and “Girls should marry quickly and protect the house” are commonplace. Moreover, since the financial situation of many families is so poor, boys are frequently given precedence over girls to attend school. There are also parents who strongly dislike the schools being so far away from their homes, with concerns that certain areas are simply too dangerous. Or, they fear that their children will become the target of fundamental Islamists who oppose the very idea of girls receiving an education. Even assuming that these numerous obstacles can be overcome, there still remains the problem of efforts to simply provide an education to these girls. An assessment carried out by AAR Japan amongst 90 children at a public school in Haripur district found that almost 40% of respondents cited they did not want to go to school due to poor sanitation facilities.

Even if there were toilets…

For most schools in Haripur district, water supply systems do not exist. Particularly in the dry summer season, water reserves become scarce and even with toilets in place, both teachers and students are unable to use them, or even perform general cleaning duties. Prior to the start of relief efforts, a survey was conducted amongst the teachers. The results showed that some 7 to 10% of all students were absent from school due to poor physical health, with the results even worse during the summer time with 20% of students marked as absent. Furthermore, although certain schools within the refugee camps had an adequate number of toilets, the majority of them were in a state of disrepair and provided no place to wash. In recent years, the Pakistani government has been urging refugees to return to their home country, with support towards refugees living in Pakistan remaining limited. With International Organizations curtailing their assistance programs due to budget austerities, putting these facilities in order is indeed a difficult situation.
Most of the toilets are badly damaged and cannot be used(Dec.5th,2016)

At present, repairing these broken toilets remains a difficult task(Dec.5th,2016)

With inferior sanitation facilities being the main cause for the low attendance of school girls, AAR Japan is taking decisive steps towards improving the overall situation. In both elementary girl schools situated in the refugee camps and public elementary schools, we have excavated land for wells (in addition to tending to their construction), installed water tanks and sanitation areas (see picture on the right) and performed repair work on toilets. Furthermore, a survey conducted amongst 230 Pakistani and Afghani young girls found that in 98% of the respondents’ households, they were using contaminated water not fit for consumption. A mere 35% of respondents had said they washed their hands after using the toilet, and from this we decided to implement public awareness programs for correct sanitation methods. When we asked one of our class participants, Imangle (9 years old, bottom right picture), “When do we wash our hands?” she clearly responded “After going to the toilet! And before and after eating!”
A water tank being installed at a public girls’ school (Dec. 5th, 2016)

We hope for your continued support to create an environment where young girls can study in peace and safety.

Students being taught on how to wash their hands during a sanitary development activity (December 5th, 2016)

We will continue to pursue sanitary education for the benefit of students like Imangle (Dec. 5th, 2016)

Yuichiro YAMAMOTO, AAR JAPAN Pakistan Office
YAMAMOTO assumed this post since January 2015 until December 2016.
After graduating from a university in the USA and completing a master’s degree in the UK, worked as an educational consultant in Indonesia. Joined AAR JAPAN in the hopes to take part in the Great East Japan Earthquake recovery.

Japanese-English translation by Mr. Scutella Joseph

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan’s Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.