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Lack of birth registrations keep children out of school

Sania and her friends at the ECCD center
Sania and her friends at the ECCD center
September 5, 2012

Sania, 7, is a very shy girl who lives in the slums of Islamabad in Pakistan. She loves books and learning and was keen to go to school after graduating from a preschool supported by Plan’s early childhood care and development (ECCD) initiative.

As her former caregiver Rehana observed, “She loves studying and questioning. She is now 7 years old and it is time for her to go to primary school.”

But Sania faced a challenge, bigger even than overcoming the initial resistance of her father, who had thought education was wasted on a girl: Sania had no birth certificate. Without one, it’s difficult to enroll in any primary school.

Low birth registration

Sania was one of many Pakistani children who have been denied the right to be registered after birth, a right that leads to benefits like education and protects against child labor and child marriage.

In some districts of Pakistan, fewer than 1 in 10 births are registered – and it’s especially tough for girls. In Kyber Pakhtunkhwa province, for example, from January 2005 to February 2008, 5.7% of boys had their births registered compared to just 3.6% of girls. With statistics appearing to show fewer girls than actually exist, funding for girls’ education has been seriously shortchanged.

On the books

In 2000, Plan initiated a package of programs targeting children, communities, schools, media, and local and national authorities to sort out Pakistan’s birth registration troubles.

With support from the local government and the National Database and Registration Authority, Plan piloted its efforts in several districts in Pakistan. As a result, more than 1,600,000 children have had their births registered.

But some children still fall through the cracks. There are pockets, including the slum where Sania lives, where the campaign struggles to reach. “Most parents don’t bother registering their children, especially girls, at birth. Some parents cannot envision its advantages,” said Sania’s father.

All of Sania's uncertainty and heartache could have been avoided had she been registered at birth. But luckily, this story has a happy ending: Though not the ideal solution, an alternative document to register her was used and with a little help from Plan, Sania eventually got a place in a primary school -- where she belongs.

Learn more about Plan's universal birth registration work



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