Gender Disparity in Education
By Dr Ghulam M Haniff
St. Cloud, Minnesota

 

Prophet Muhammad, (Upon Whom be Peace and Blessings of Allah), was an unlettered man but was a vigorous advocate of learning in all its aspects. As a matter of fact he exhorted his followers “to go even unto China to satisfy this desire for learning.” He often articulated that learning is incumbent upon men and women from cradle to grave.

One of the most unfortunate consequences of this learning is the widespread disparity it brings through the enterprise of learning. Strongly struck by inequality in the process of learning the Muslims have stayed aloof from the process of learning and are now suffering the unfortunate negative consequences. During colonialism the learning of the females was totally neglected and a vast majority of them grew up without being literate. Since independence the situation has somewhat improved though a lot has yet to be done. This is uniformly true among all Muslim nations though in some improvements have been fast-paced. The instability is due to constantly contrived war between females and males in the allocation of resources - more for the boys and less for girls. The last thing you will find is a peaceful Muslim nation at least in the distribution of resources.

Men speak for the females and they know what is good for them. The allocation of resources is exclusively in the hands of men and they profess to know what the Qur'an says about them.

In a Muslim country not too many people are educated and no country has reached the optimum goal of 100 percent literacy. Typically, the females are far behind the males in the acquisition of knowledge and are rarely at the same level as males.

The structure of schooling is such that females are forever behind. This is what creates conditions for inequality. Inequality leads to oppression and oppression to conflict.

For an inherently unstable country like Pakistan the need is to improve the educational system for both girls and boys. The gap that now exists can be bridged, as India seems to be doing, by bringing the two together, regardless of such daunting tasks as the cultural and geographic on one hand, and the tribal and religious, on the other.

India is ahead in the contested educational game: it is almost reaching the 85 percent figure in its educational efforts compared to 58 percent for Pakistan. In both countries the girls are behind, but less so in India than in Pakistan.

The development of disparities has contributed to the unequal nature of the educational system and has directly led to inequalities in income levels. This has led to the development of unequal societies in all of South Asia and left it behind to wallow in poverty of incredible magnitude while the rest of the world was bearing the burdens of transforming their nations from a medieval past to an industrial future. This industrial revolution was to transform everything from economics to politics to national wealth where some nations became wealthy beyond imagination while many were left behind to suffer the indignities of colonialism.

This Third World is now trying to get out the grips of poverty but only some countries are succeeding. One of the elements it inherited is the lack of equality in education and that is because of colonial policies. Owing to the obsessive power of colonialism Muslims have been left behind, unable to break the bonds of colonial conquests.

There is not a single family who refuses to educate their girls but not enough schools exist to educate them. The Muslim masses are clamoring for opportunities to find places for girls but the educational authorities can’t find spots for them. Resources for education need to be increased but a country like Pakistan has other needs, too.

A country of the stature of Pakistan, with nuclear weapons, needs to present a good face, one that can be admired. It is surrounded by countries like China and India, the two most powerful forces on the Asian continent. It shares borders with Iran and Afghanistan, the countries which are considered to have radical regimes.

For its own sake and proress Pakistan would want to have a more balanced educational system and to give females and males equal chances in educational decision-making.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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