Is Education a Basic Right for All? A glimpse into the Successes and Challenges in Enrolling this Marginalized Population.

AuthorReza, Fawzia

Primary education, which is at the base of the educational pyramid, is considered one of the basic human rights, and is essential for the economic growth and development of a country (Arif, Saqib, & Zahid, 1997). (1) Although an educated population establishes the foundation for a nation's prosperity, in certain countries including Pakistan, this basic right is not appropriately recognized or encouraged. The disparity in educational achievement is more compelling in the case of Pakistani girls, who are marginalized for a number of social, cultural and religious reasons, and are not provided the same resources as boys. These gender disparities in education are especially evident in developing countries, despite a compelling body of evidence that suggests that investing in the education of girls is critical to poverty alleviation (Klasen, 2002; Rihani, 2006; Tembon & Fort, 2008; Duflo, 2011). (2) Brown (2006) (3) describes marginalization as ignoring the perspectives of a section of people, which contributes to a sense of powerlessness and insecurity, and perpetuates a cycle of poverty, ignorance, and helplessness. Marginalized populations are often disempowered and have little control over their lives or the decisions that they are allowed to make, and are often looked down upon by the dominant society. Pakistan is a predominantly a patricidal and conservative society and therefore, girls are often restricted from appearing in the public sphere including attending schools, where they might receive a secular education. Using Freire's (2012) (4) theoretical perspective, this study highlights the presence of systematic patterns of inequality applied by what he calls the dominant majority to anybody who is different. According to Freire, social justice does not merely mean providing racial equality, but also includes equality and equity across all domains. This is especially relevant if the target group is also underprivileged, as in the case of girls in Pakistani schools.

Within this context, a qualitative study was conducted to understand the successes and challenges of enrolling girls in Pakistani schools. Four elementary schools (grades 1-8) in Pakistan were selected for the study based on whether they encouraged enrollment from girls from a low socio-economic background. One administrator and two teachers from each school site, a total of 12 participants, were selected for the study through a purposeful sampling strategy. Research tools included interviews and document collection. The interviews were used to collect data regarding the specific site's successes and challenges in enrolling girls. According to Locke (1989), (5) research questions help guide methodology, and therefore, the interviews were open-ended to encourage dialogue from study participants and provided their perspective regarding the research question. Relevant documents pertaining to enrollment and retention efforts were also collected, and these served as another primary data collection method, particularly with respect to understanding how schools promote and encourage girl's education in Pakistan.


Interviews conducted for this study were transcribed and the entire data set, including the documents and interviews, were analyzed in a systematic and consistent manner. After the interviews had been transcribed, the researchers reviewed each transcript between four and five times before beginning the coding process, utilizing the first and second cycle coding method for the analysis of data (Saldana, 2009). (6) Data coding was conducted in a systematic and rigorous manner, to create categories and themes from the coded interviews and documents, which allowed the researchers to avoid expectation bias.

Excerpts from interview First cycle In-Vivo codes It so happens, if a girl is Motivate her younger brother educated, then she is able to and sisters motivate her younger brother and Motivate her in-laws sisters to educate them (1) and Motivate her own children after marriage, she can motivate her in-laws...

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