NY Times Op Ed: How Pakistan Fails Its Children

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — TO truly understand Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person ever to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, we need to understand the place she comes from.

Ms. Yousafzai is from Pakistan. The day Taliban terrorists shot her in the head she was on her way to school. Pakistan’s schools, its teachers and its education system are in such a desperate state of rot that the mere act of making one’s way to school, especially for young girls, is an extraordinary act of courage and faith.

Pakistan has a population of nearly 200 million people, of whom roughly one-fourth, or 52 million, are between the ages of 5 and 16. Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees all of these children a free and compulsory education. While statistics for this age group are difficult to come by, the number of Pakistani children between 5 and 16 who are not attending school is close to 25 million; most of them are girls.

While Ms. Yousafzai’s ordeal has brought global attention to the crisis of girls’ education in Pakistan, her admirable efforts are unlikely to succeed in improving the quality of schools across the country. That’s because the barriers to quality education in Pakistan are far greater than a few chauvinist Taliban extremists.

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