Rahmat Karim Baig

Female education in mountain communities

Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

In my article published a couple of days back I had given a summary of the female  school-going children in the old days of Chitral and the duties that housewives received from their daughters in household management. That was in the days when educational facilities were almost nil or few and the mountain communities with some cultivated lands plus livestock needed the assistance of their children to manage household chores.

That phase of history underwent a big change in the 70s and more schools were opened on gender basis. Boys went to their schools and girls went to theirs, but the ratio between the two was very imbalanced. There were more primary or middle schools for boys and few for girls; and according to a rough estimate it was 4: 1. This is what my memory tells me, may be in some communities it was 3:1 but still the gap was great. It was so because in some villages, especially where the village clerics were stronger, the number of girls schools were less as that class spoke openly against it and threatened to outclass  the particular families who sent their daughters to schools especially  to co education schools as in the absence of girls school some families sent their girls to the boys schools. I and my spouse have faced this situation but where there were separate girls’ schools the situation was not so extreme.

At present there are more schools for girls and the ratio has narrowed but still there is no equality. In a particular valley , for example, there are three high schools for boys and one high school for girls. The number is now very high but due to mountains tracks it is difficult for small girls of 5 years to walk to school safely so their mothers or any other family member has to accompany her for a couple of years. This situation is discouraging. Sending to schools all children in the morning is difficult for a family in the mountain communities with farms to be attended, livestock to be looked after and other similar pieces of work. It can be managed in shifts; the boys go to schools in the morning and the girls in the afternoons or vice versa, to be able to assist their parents and this can be arranged by the department concerned.

 Schooling of girls is equally important for the individuals as well as for the community. There are so many new challenges that can be dealt with by females i.e. in imparting education, in health, in social services, in raising vegetables in the kitchen gardens, in keeping hygienic condition in the houses and for combating environmental challenges in befitting manner, that have gripped our society and the country as a whole. We have environmental issues all around us, all manmade, and we have to address them in time. Females are more sensitive and take better care of things around them compared to men in keeping our surroundings cleaner and also work longer hours per day than males. If you count the working hours of females and males for  a few weeks then you will find the difference. I talk of hardworking women not those who play mobile games and disobey their parents and run to drown themselves if chastised. They are worthless.

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