Issues abound in Pakistan schools

Bobo K., Writer

As schools in Pakistan reopened on Sep. 16, an anonymous social media post opened up about their experiences being a student in Pakistan. The account talked about how teachers sexualized girls at a young age, how schools allowed the teachers to physically abuse their students, and how the girls were treated differently than the boys. A lot of negative comments were made against the Pakistanian school system. According to Human Rights Watch, Pakistan was described as the world’s worst-performing country in education at the 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development.

We sat down with three students from Pakistan to share what schooling in Pakistan is like and asked them to share their personal stories. When interviewing these students, they confirmed that the information from the account was, in fact, true.

The first interviewee didn’t want her name to be revealed due to her privacy, but she was able to give us her last name, Wahid. When asking her about any personal experiences she had in school, she told us a story about an event at her school which she had signed up for. Wahid signed up for a competition in her school where one student from each sect (groups of people with somewhat different religious beliefs) had to choose a topic and prepare a PowerPoint presentation to present to their class. Wahid chose the topic of the digestive system. Wahid claims that her teacher thought that Wahid’s topic was disgusting, and discouraged Wahid, saying that she was not confident in her topic. When the day of the presentation came, Wahid said that she was shocked when one of the participants of the competition used her presentation as their own work. “When she presented her PowerPoint slides, my jaw dropped. It was my hard work. It was my presentation.” Wahid claims that her teacher gave a copy of Wahid’s slides to her favorite student. “I felt betrayed,” says Wahid. “It always seemed that my teacher had some personal issues with me.” Wahid also expressed how teachers in Pakistan were jealous of their own students. “I have many friends who lost their self-esteem because of our teachers.”

Muhtesem Zaidi didn’t share much of her bad personal experience, but she did tell us the terrible things she saw around her school in 6th grade. Zaidi has seen students get physically abused by the teachers. Zaidi also says some teachers would not punish you at all and some would. Zaidi also discussed the unfair standards of her dress code. “All Pakistani schools have uniforms” (shalwar kameez for the girls and pants and shirts for boys). Wearing makeup, nail polish, jewelry, or other shoes is not allowed. Girls are often punished if they break the dress code. Zaidi witnessed teachers shaming students for not wearing undergarments. “I have seen a teacher pulling up a girl’s shirt to see if they were wearing a bra or not, which was totally sick!” Zaidi then talked about how the teachers thought of girls joining sports. “Some of our teachers sexualized and slut-shamed girls joining sports.”

“The teachers here are mostly not very open-minded,” says Eman Tayyab. Tayyab is part of a private coed school where her education is prioritized l, but the school is equally bad behaviorally as the other schools in Pakistan. “We are not allowed to wear nail polish, which is understandable. But if someone is wearing nail polish, jewelry, or other shoes, they are often bashed,” she explains of the dress policy. In addition, Tayyab says that there are disparities in how boys and girls are treated in the school system. “I’m in a coed school and I’ve heard boys use vulgar language, which is mostly ignored, but that’s not the same with girls.” Tayyab shared how she believed men in Pakistani society are “naturally like that” because of how schools like hers are punishing the girls more than the boys. However, Tayyab did want to credit the very rare supportive teachers who don’t indulge in their students’ private life. “They teach us fairly. Of course, every teacher has the right to tell their students the difference between right and wrong. There’s just a way of telling.”

Each student has discussed three flaws regarding the problematic rules in their schools and argued that their school should treat all their students better in the future. Unfortunately, Pakistan isn’t the only country where schools have strict policies. If schools keep allowing their teachers to sexualize girls and physically abuse their students then schooling opportunities for women in Pakistan will continue to drastically decrease, causing the role of women in the country to diminish. According to Human Rights Watch, girls are losing out on a good education.