Right to education is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention of Children’s Rights, it is guaranteed by the constitutions of most states, including Pakistan, yet still millions of children worldwide have no access to education at primary level. There are many reasons why children are out of school. Most common misconceptions are blaming the parents or gender-based discrimination that prevents girls from attending schools. But that is only a small fragment of a complex picture. Most often children don’t go to school because they simply cannot afford to, or there is no school available where they live, or there is not enough space in existing schools to accommodate all the children. Sometimes there aren’t any teachers available. Sometimes school building lacks basic facilities such as bathrooms or boundary walls.
At Alight we look at the whole story, and we examine each detail to comprehend the nature of the problem and to find best remedy. We talk to the local communities and work in partnership with the government, and together we co-design solutions best suited to the local context. We build the schools, we provide basic supplies and expand the capacity of the existing ones, we train the teachers and provide accelerated curriculum especially designed for the out of school children. We understand there is no miracle cure, but rather there are myriads of ways in which we can improve the existing system. So we do the doable and we do the better. We make small – and not so small – changes, that make a big difference. Our impact can be measured in number of children we put in school – that is about 1 million, but the effect of education on life of each of these children is immeasurable.
We see education as the great equalizer and learning as an empowering experience. And we believe that education is key for social and economic development of the nation, as well as basic right that we have a duty to provide access to.
In 2018-2021 we run the largest ever OOSC intervention in cooperation with the Pakistani government and other partner NGOs. And together we achieved remarkable results. We worked out innovative solutions: our academic calendar and accelerated curriculum made it possible for children who missed several years of school to make up for the loss quickly and to join mainstream education. Our subject workbooks that we distributed in non-formal schools proved to be so successful that the Literacy & Non-Formal Basic Education (L&NFBE) department Punjab requested to provide these supplementary materials in all 13,000 Literacy Centers in the province.
In collaboration with Oxademy UK and Allama Iqbal Open University we trained the non-formal school teachers and provided them with the course certificates. We made the training accessible online – when the pandemic prevented face-to-face interaction, and we prepared offline version – for those teachers living in remote areas without internet access.
Children in the mountainous region of Gilgit Baltistan who could not study online during the pandemic, simply because there is no internet access where they live, also had to be catered for. We reached to them through radio – with our dedicated Muallim Radio Programme specially designed for primary school students. Again, the project proved so successful that the Federal Ministry of Education & Professional Training and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting have formally agreed (through MoU) to spread it throughout the country as “Nationwide School Initiative.”
As part of the Gaamzan project we launched a mobile learning facility (Mobile van) to our NonFormal Schools in Gilgit Baltistan region.
We achieved the campaign target – we found a place in school for 1.1 million children, yet we realize that there are still millions of out of school children. We see our Educate A Child campaign then not as a finished project, but hopefully a prelude to something even bigger. We are ready to embark on the mission of giving every child a chance to learn – a chance for better future.