Only 67 percent of girls in Pakistan attend primary school; by secondary school, that number drops to 31 percent. The reasons are practical as well as cultural: some parents are reluctant to send their daughters to schools that are unsafe and lacking in sanitation facilities; others see early marriage as a higher priority than education.
Oxfam is working in Pakistan to ensure that all kids have access to a quality education, particularly girls living in rural poverty. Together with local partner organizations, Oxfam renovated four girls’ schools—resulting in a 42 percent increase in enrollment—and provided others with trained teachers and new equipment.
“The [renovated school] will make a big difference to the girls—they can be taught separately away from boys and there is more space for different classes,” said teacher Hameeda Bano Bhatti. “They can also play and have entertainment in a safe area protected by a wall. Before the schools were open so they couldn’t play during breaks.”
Her students agree with her about the improvements.
“The old school was small, no water, very hot, and it was not very clean – it wasn’t nice to go there … But now there is a new school there will be more space to study. I want to learn and increase my knowledge; my father says if I study I can have a better life,” said one student, age 11.
Oxfam also worked with national and regional lawmakers to craft legislation guaranteeing the right of all children to education. And kids themselves play a key role in Oxfam’s awareness campaign, which aims to change public perception of the issue. Through leadership clubs organized at their schools, young girls learn to understand their rights and become spokespeople for the importance of education.