Since gaining independence more than half a century ago, Pakistan has struggled to solidify its political state long enough to implement sufficient nationalized education systems. Its schools remain encumbered by infrastructure problems, poverty, and gender inequality. As of 2017, Pakistan was one of the lowest-performing South Asian countries by education standards, and was ranked the second worst country in the world for gender equality.
Pakistan’s youth population is growing rapidly, making up over a third of the country’s total working population, a percentage which is expected to increase through 2025. Pakistan will be challenged to create sufficient jobs to match this youth population growth. But future workforce success would ask much of a struggling education system, with a high ideal; the Constitution of Pakistan obliges “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law.”
One in ten of the world’s school-aged children are Pakistani. 56% of male students—compared to 44% of their female counterparts—are attending school. 60% of the country’s population over the age of 10 can read and write, with disparate literacy rates of 69% for males and 45% for females. Yet even the higher male statistic is desperately far behind the world male literacy rate of 90%, and Pakistan’s female population reads and writes at a rate of just over half that of the world average. In Islamabad, the nation’s capital, the literacy rate is encouragingly high—87% in Islamabad. In more remote areas, like the rural Balochistani district of Kohlu, just 20% of residents can read and write.
In many rural communities, existing schools are limited in efficacy by a lack of toilets, clean water, and protective boundary walls. In mountainous and remote environments, students without access to these essential facilities will often stay home, rather than attend a school where they are cold, thirsty, or unsafe. And especially for young female students, who need and deserve access to private, sanitary restrooms, a lack of sufficient toilet facilities is often enough to keep girls away out of fear or embarrassment or convince girls’ families that they should not attend.