Conflict & Justice

The dismal state of Pakistan's education system


Pakistani students pray for the early recovery of child activist Malala Yousafzai at a school in Mingora on October 11, 2012. Malala's shooting has brought attention to the sad state of education in Pakistan.



KARACHI, Pakistan — On October 9, Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan's Swat region was asked for by name, then shot twice by gunmen acting on orders from the Pakistani Taliban.

Malala's crime? Speaking out against the Taliban and promoting every girl's right to an education. She's currently standing on her feet and communicating in a British hotel, where she was transferred after a surgery to remove a bullet lodged near her spine.

In the week since the attack, Malala has become a worldwide inspiration. Everyone from Madonna to Angelina Jolie, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari to the layman Facebook commentator has voiced their thoughts, theories and opinions about Malala and her fight for girls' education.

Pakistan's government has consistently failed to protect its children, teachers, schools and rights activists. In 2012 thus far, there have been 96 schools attacked by militants in Pakistan. Most took place in the country's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP), where Swat, the former Taliban stronghold, is located.

More from GlobalPost: Malala Yousafzai: Why did the Taliban shoot this girl?

“Parts of Pakistan are among the most dangerous places in the world to go to school today,” Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement today. “It’s time Pakistani authorities understand that expressions of outrage alone are inadequate and such attacks will only end if they hold abusers accountable.”

Attacks on activists and teachers have grown increasingly common in KP, where the Taliban still maintains a stronghold, despite offensives by the Pakistani military. In July, Farida Afridi, a women's rights activist was murdered for her work on girls education and women's empowerment in Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Last December, Zarteef Afridi, a teacher at a local government-run school in Pakistan's Khyber Agency, also in KP, was shot to death by masked attackers.  

However, the challenge to education in Pakistan isn't simply to protect the students who are able to attend class. Pakistan is one of eight countries in the world that spends less than 2 percent of its GDP on education, a number that ties into the dismal statistics on the state of education in the country.

More from GlobalPost: Angelina Jolie throws her support behind Malala Yousafzai

According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization's Education for All Global Monitoring report, a quarter of the 19.75 million children in Pakistan aged five to nine are not currently enrolled in school.

The country's literacy rate for children above the age of 15 hovers at 55 percent, lower than India's 63 percent and Bangladesh's 58 percent. According to the report, it's the girls in Pakistan that suffer the most as a consequence of the terrible state of education in the country. Sixty-three percent of girls who are of a school-going age aren't in school, and female literacy in Pakistan is at a whopping 40 percent.

The story of Malala is more than an anecdote that has currently captured the world's attentions. It's an axiom; more than just the case of the shooting of one brave girl, Malala shows the crisis engulfing the entire Pakistani education system.