“Gaamzan” means “in motion” in Urdu. To be Gamzaan is to keep on walking, progressing, moving towards a certain goal. For us that goal is to provide young people of the Karakorum region with access to education and vocational training, because we believe that education is the most effective tool for addressing poverty, building peace, and fighting oppression. The transformative power of education empowers individuals and helps build more resilient communities.

Through the Gaamzan project, Alight Pakistan in partnership with Central Asia Institute, strives to provide quality education and skill-development opportunities to thousands of children and young adults in Gilgit Baltistan. Working on the ground in remote, often difficult-to-reach villages of the Karakorum and Himalaya region, we collaborate with local communities to change their lives for the better and promote sustainable development. We listen to those we serve and based on the need we respond by building a school, providing supplies, training teachers, awarding scholarships, and sponsoring livelihoods training.

Over the course of 15 months, starting in July 2020, we have reached a total of 7,656 children and 116 adolescents in 10 different districts of Gilgit-Baltistan. And we keep on moving.

Providing Access to Quality Education

Providing-Access-to-Quality-EducationAccording to 2019 Annual Status of Education Report, 8 percent of children between 6-16 in Gilgit Baltistan are out of school, with more girls not enrolled than boys, and many of those who are attending schools are not actually learning much due to low quality of education.

Under Gaamzan Project, Alight in collaboration with its partners, aims to provide quality education to all children in Gilgit-Baltistan. We are opening non-formal schools catering specifically to communities without access to any educational institutions. Thousands of children from far-flung mountain villages got their first chance to attend school through our intervention. To make sure that no child is left behind, we mobilize communities and help them take responsibility for management of their own schools, with our extended support and assistance.

Our accelerated academic calendar and workbooks assist out of school children in catching up on the academic progress that would eventually allow them to join mainstream schools. Our interventions complement existing education system by standardizing the process of learning, and establishing robust assessment mechanisms to rigorously track learning outcomes and identify areas for improvement.

Creating a Safe Learning Environment

We are working to improve the school conditions and create safe learning environment for every child. Sometimes it means providing the outdoor school with a shelter – to protect the children from the summer heat and autumn chill, from wind and rain, so that the lessons can be conducted regardless of the weather. We provide WASH and basic hygiene facilities for schools as such interventions are recognized for improving retention. And the availability of bathrooms at school is especially important for young girls.

A major task undertaken by Alight Pakistan is to improve awareness of menstruation hygiene management among school aged girls. The general lack of knowledge of this is due to prevalent reluctance to discuss the topic. Our Physical Social and Health Education (PSHE) program involves community awareness and mobilization sessions, distribution of menstruation health management kits and provision of related Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material.

Powering up Education

Powering up education

Gaamzan Project places technology front-and-center and equips non-formal schools with tablets and TVs to advance and assist learning. We have also established 10 e-learning centers and a learning hotspot providing access to educational content for formal schools through Local Areas Network (LAN).

While for some schools lack of access to the internet and devices is a problem, others struggle because of disruption in electric power supply or lack of electricity altogether. We have arranged for emergency power supply batteries to be installed in a number of schools to minimize disruption to learning, and provided solar panels for electricity generation in others.

Teachers Continuous Professional Development Program

The quality of education depends largely on the quality of teaching and that depends on teachers’ access to quality training. Alight Pakistan offers teachers professional support and development opportunities, starting with training needs assessment, through site-based and online training sessions and provision of education support material, to follow-up support and continuous assistance.

Our Continuous Professional Development program is designed for gradual capacity building of the teachers, who receive training after every 2 to 3 months depending on the needs assessed through academic results of the students. Teaching and learning materials and devices, such as tablets with preloaded content, academic calendars, educational videos, radio program, teaching education kits etc., are provided to teachers to aid their work and maximize their effectiveness. Our literacy mobilizers are coached on classroom observation and constructive feedback to teachers, supporting them in their work.

Education that Works – Vocational Training and Skill Development Programs

vocational training and skill development programs

Vocational education and training gives young people skills and experience necessary for finding the right jobs. It also provides local industries with skilled graduates who can fill in vacancies and move the businesses forward. This in turn promotes communal development leading to prosperity for villages, districts, provinces, and the nation at large.

As part of the Gaamzan Project, Alight has launched several skills-development programs offering training in masonry, sewing/stitching, hospitality and fashion designing. Our hands-on courses combining theoretical knowledge with practical work allowed young men and women from Gilgit Baltistan to acquire knowledge and skills, as well as experience and confidence to find good jobs or even start their own businesses.

A group of 25 women graduates opened a co-operative sewing and stitching business named ‘Chuk Phutuk Enterprises’, using newly gained skills to secure livelihoods, support their loved ones, and grow.

New Challenges, New Solutions

With the onset of COVID-19, many families – particularly from rural communities – saw their incomes dwindle as the economy shrank. Emergencies always disproportionately impact the most vulnerable, and during this period access to basic healthcare, protection, education and nutrition was severely restricted for these groups.

To overcome mounting adversities, Alight Pakistan and their partners in Gaamzan project generated a comprehensive assistance plan for the families they were working with. The support program involved supplying personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizers, hand gloves, as well as making available oxygen cylinders to local medical centers and conducting a series of food drives to keep nutrition and immunity levels at an adequate level during the pandemic.

Education on Wheels

Education on wheels

When the children cannot go to school, the school comes to them! Alight’s Mobile Library Van is on the road since January 2021, visiting children in formal and non-formal schools, as well as the settlements where no schools exist. And as the stories of the storytelling vehicle spread across the region, more and more schools are eager to welcome the orange mobile library.

When the schools in the region closed due to Covid19 the Alight team had to think of the way to boost children’s morale and sustain learning. Alight’s literacy van functions as a mobile library for schools as well as literacy center for remote settlements where there are no schools. The job of the facilitators is not only to tell and stories and issue the books, but also to assess the students reading ability and guide them through different reading competency levels. The children are always excited to see the orange van, and the teachers appreciate the resources that add to the educational experience of the students.

Radio School

When the schools all over the region closed due to the pandemic, we had to come up with a solution that would let the children continue learning throughout the lockdown. Children living in the remote settlements of the mountainous region did not have access to a computer or a smartphone, internet or even a reliable supply of electric power – online learning was simply not an option for them. But most of the household had a radio – and that age old technology proved to be of great assistance even now, in the 21st century. Our Muallim Radio Broadcast is a low-tech, high-impact solution that proved effective not only in the GB region. Initially designed specifically to help children from remote mountainous villages to carry on learning, its content proved to be so that the Federal Ministry of Education & Training and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting have formally agreed (through MoU) to spread it throughout the country as “Nationwide School Initiative.”

Aimed at around 2000 children to begin with, the Muallim Radio Program helped 200,000+ students continue their studies with numeracy and literacy lessons, stories, poems, games and physical exercise to keep kids interested and engaged. The child actors and funny professors made sure that radio lessons were fun and children could benefit from them, not only learning new content, but also staying positive during the difficult times.