Pakistan's medical schools where women rule
Medical schools - where the women rule
Karachi, April 20: In a lecture hall of one of Pakistan's most prestigious medical schools, a
handful of male students sit in the far top corner, clearly outnumbered
by the rows and rows of female students listening intently to the
doctor lecturing about insulin.
In a country better known
for honour killings of women and low literacy rates for girls,
Pakistan's medical schools are a reflection of how women's roles are
evolving. Women now make up the vast majority of students studying
medicine, a gradual change that's come about after a quota favouring
male admittance into medical school was lifted in 1991.
trend is a step forward for women in Pakistan, a largely conservative
country. But there remain obstacles. Many women graduates don't go on to
work as doctors, largely because of pressure from family and society to
get married and stop working - so much so that there are now concerns
over the impact on the country's health care system.
At Dow Medical College in Karachi, the female students said they are adamant they will work.
in the school's courtyard as fellow students - almost all of them women
- gathered between classes, Ayesha Sultan described why she wants to
become a doctor.
"I wanted to serve humanity, and I
believe that I was born for this," said Sultan, who is in her first
year. "The women here are really striving hard to get a position,
especially in this country where women's discrimination is to the
zenith, so I think that's why you find a lot of women here."
years, a government-imposed quota mandated that 80 percent of the seats
at medical schools went to men and 20 percent to women. Then the
Supreme Court ruled that the quota was unconstitutional and that
admission should be based solely on merit.
Now about 80 to
85 percent of the country's medical students are women, said Dr Mirza
Ali Azhar, the secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association.
Statistics gathered by The Associated Press show that at medical schools
in some deeply conservative areas of the country such as Balochistan in
the southwest and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest, men
still outnumber women. But in Punjab and Sindh provinces, which turn
out the vast bulk of medical students, the women dominate. At Dow, it is
currently about 70 percent women to 30 percent men.
comparison, about 47 percent of medical students in the US are women,
according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
are a number of different reasons why men don't make the cut, say
students, faculty and medical officials. Medical school takes too long
and is too difficult. Boys have more freedom to leave the house than
girls, so they have more distractions. Boys want a career path in
business or IT that will make them more money and faster, in part
because they need to earn money to raise families.
society, girls are working harder. They are just more concentrated on
their studies," said Azhar. Boys also see how hard doctors have to work
even after they get their degree. "They do not like to work hard as a
matter of fact."
Ammara Khan is fully prepared for the
years that it will take to fulfil her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon.
She decided she wanted to pursue neurosurgery after watching an
operation while volunteering at the Aga Khan University Hospital in
Karachi. "It's like an adrenaline rush, and I knew I wanted to be that
and nothing else," she said.
Still, medical officials and students acknowledge many women don't go on to practise medicine.
Dow, for example, just about all the male graduates work as doctors,
but only an estimated half the women do, says Dr Umar Farooq, the
school's pro-vice chancellor. Nationwide figures on how many women
graduates forgo actual practice don't exist, but despite years of
increased women's enrollment, the gender breakdown of doctors remains
lopsided. Of the 132,988 doctors registered with the Pakistan Medical
and Dental Council, 58,789 are women. The number of female specialists
is even smaller: 7,524 out of 28,686.
The pressure on women to get married, have kids and stay home to raise them is powerful.
prestige of a medical degree gives a woman a boost in marriage
prospects, so many parents push their daughters to enroll, many students
and faculty said. Prospective in-laws like the idea of having a doctor
in the family and want their sons to have an educated wife to ensure the
grandchildren are educated as well.
But that doesn't mean they want the woman to actually use her degree and take away from child-raising time.
want a doctor label but they don't want it to go anywhere. They don't
think you're a real person who might want to specialise or work on it,"
said Beenish Ehsan, a student at Dow.
Her own family
supports her completing the initial five years of medical college. But
when she started talking about further studies for a specialisation,
they worried it would take away from her future family life.
"They're like, 'No, but you'll take care of the house, won't you?'" Ehsan said.
have to convince them," she said, adding that too many women don't push
back against their families. "Sometimes girls give up too soon, I
There are also cultural impediments. Women who do
work often don't want to do so in rural areas far from their families or
don't want night shifts, given the country's deteriorating law and
order. Some male patients only want to be treated by men because they
don't want women touching them or because they perceive the men to be
smarter and more qualified.
During the 2010 floods that
devastated Pakistan, Dow wanted to send medical students to rural Sindh
to treat victims but were hindered by the school's overwhelmingly female
enrollment, admissions director Rana Qamar Masood said. The boys could
go on their own for long stretches. The girls were also lobbying heavily
to go, but the school decided to send them in teams on buses with
chaperones out of concern for their safety. They would return home each
evening, thus limiting how far they could travel.
responsible for these girls. How can we send them out to these hard-hit
areas?" she said. "These are the ground realities in our society."
concerns over the number of the doctors in the future, proposals are
being touted to rebalance the student body. Masood said she would
support some sort of gender bias in admissions to bring in more male
students. The PMA has floated the idea of building a number of medical
schools just for boys. Already there are five medical schools for women.
Among the students, some said a new quota was necessary. Others said it would be unfair.
would be injustice. Girls are studying harder," said one male student,
Aleem Uddin Khan, who said it took him two tries to get into Dow. "If we
want the seats, we should study hard."
The debate here
echoes the "mommy wars" in the US, where women have been trying to
figure out the balance between work and home life for years.
Lakhani, a Dow student, has only to look to her mother, who's a doctor,
to know it's possible to pursue a career and have a family. Her mom
took her postgraduate exams 15 days after giving birth to Midhat's
sister. "You have to be supermom, obviously," she said. The news
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SMIU school gets new headmistress
Karachi: The post of headmistress in the Sindh
Madressahtul Islam University (SMIU) Girls Model School that had fallen
vacant three months ago on the retirement of Afroz Abbasi has finally
been filled on Friday.
Academician Nabeela Kanwal has joined the SMIU school as its
headmistress in BPS-19 on a contract basis for one year. She did her
Master's in Education from the Institute of Eduction, London and the Aga
Khan University Institute for Educational Development, Karachi
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Probe into Rs90m scam: Education office record seized
Dadu: A team of anti-corruption police raided the
office of the district officer of education on Friday and seized record
of school management committees' funds in the wake of reports about
embezzlement of Rs90 million SMC funds. Dadu deputy commissioner also
formed a probe committee to investigate the embezzlement by the
education officials in connivance with district accounts office.
The DC, Shahmir Bhutto, appointed additional deputy commissioner-I,
Aziz Ahmed Barlas, head of the committee and trainee assistant
commissioner Omer Khan its member and directed them to inspect all
schools, check record of SMC funds and report him within seven days.
He directed the committee to also check record of district accounts
office and find hard evidence about embezzlement of such a huge amount
as well as illegal appointments of teachers and lower staff.
Mr Bhutto said that it was his administration's priority to raise standard of all educational institutions in the district.
After the inquiry into funds' embezzlement was complete, its report
would be sent to Sindh government for further action against corrupt
officers, he said. He said the SMC funds were donated by the Asian Bank,
World Bank and Sindh government for purchasing equipment for
laboratories, computers and furniture for schools and repair of
dilapidated school buildings.
Meanwhile, a team of anti-corruption police led by circle officer,
Inspector Ghulam Ali Bozdar, conducted raid on the office of the
district officer of education and assistant district officer and took
into custody record of SMC funds.
Mr Bozdar told journalists after the raid that he would send the
report to chairman of anti-corruption establishment and recommend
registration of a case against the officials involved in the
He said that he was looking for more record of corruption which had been hidden away by education officials, he said.
Later, the DC paid a surprise visit to Allama I.I. Qazi Library and
found nine staffers absent from duty. He recommended to the secretary of
culture department for action against the absentee staff.
The DC who was accompanied by additional deputy commissioner checked
books and newspapers and found almost nobody in the library during the
visit including in-charge of library and eight other staffers.
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LUMHS, SALU sign MoUs with Turkish varsities
Hydreabad: The Liaquat University of Medical and
Health Sciences (LUMHS), Jamshoro, and Shah Abdul Latif University
(SALU), Khairpur signed memorandums of understanding with Turkish
universities in separate ceremonies on Friday.
In Jamshoro, LUMHS signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sifa
University and Gediz University of Turkey in order to strengthen
It was decided that the universities would launch joint PhD
programmes, faculty exchange programmes, collaborative research
programmes, distant learning projects, etc.
In Khairpur, SALU signed a memorandum of understanding with Gediz University, Izmir, Turkey.
The signed agreement calls for joint research and teaching programmes
by the universities and exchange programmes for faculty members,
students and published material, and, other activities such as cultural
programmes and academic meetings. Dawn
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