Through community mobilization, teacher training and school construction, Alight Pakistan in collaboration with Education Above All Foundation and local partners, managed to provide 1,101,549 out of school children (OOSC) in Pakistan with access to quality primary education.
The Educate A Child Program was Pakistan’s largest ever intervention for out of school children led by an NGO. The ambitious campaign aimed to enroll over 1 million kids – thus making a significant, sustainable reduction in the number of out of school children.
Over the course of a three-and-a-half-year period, Alight enrolled 1,101,549 OOSC in selected districts of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, Baluchistan and ICT into formal and non-formal school settings. The Government of Pakistan through the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training as well as provincial governments were Alight’s key partners in implementing the project.
Alight’s project model was based on a two-pronged ‘push/pull’ strategy to guide activities and interventions. The ‘push’ strategy included engaging directly with government departments and local communities to lead enrolment drives, mobilize parents and devise local initiatives to enroll OOSC. The ‘pull’ strategy, on the other hand, concentrated on building new schools and classrooms in existing schools; delivering a quality teaching pedagogy; and providing improved learning environments and incentives to students.
The key ingredients of the success of the Educating One Million Out of School Children Campaign
Broad and diverse partnership network
Educate a Child was designed as a collaborative intervention that required the cooperation of NGOs with provincial and federal governments. But just as important was the inclusion of local communities: villages councils, grassroots organizations and local communities. When it comes to children’s school attendance, especially in case of low-income families from underprivileged communities, much depends on the attitude of the families.
Out of The Box Ideas.
The meaningful dialogue with the communities that are the ultimate beneficiaries of the project allowed us to establish the actual needs and obstacles preventing children in certain areas from attending a school and create solutions. And when it comes to effective – and sustainable – solutions, we learnt that flexibility is vital. Our non-formal schools established all over the country cater to the needs of those kids who would not get admitted to public school. We also devised accelerated curriculum to help those students, for whom the age was the major issue, to catch up on the lost years of education and rejoin the mainstream education.
Effective use of available technology.
When the COVID19 pandemic hit in, it was the students from the poorest communities and those living in remote settlements that got affected the worst, as they did not have the option of online learning. We leveraged technology that has been around for over a century – and used radio to deliver education to out of school children. The success of our Muallim radio program for primary years’ students exceeded our expectations. Originally aiming at 2,000 children from the remote mountainous region of Gilgit Baltistan, our educational radio programme reached 200,000-plus children all over Pakistan.
Scaling the solutions and making the most of the available financial and human resources allowed us to do the most with the least, utilizing as much as possible smart and cost-effective implementation approaches. To make sure that every rupee in the program is well spent we used a robust monitoring and quality assurance system.
Focus on Quality.
We realize that numbers are not all that counts – the quality of the education is just as important as the total of students on the enrollment list. For our non-formal schools, we designed a teachers’ training program and implemented it with the assistance of Oxademy, UK and local Allama Iqbal Open University. We have also established Pakistan’s first ever Virtual Teachers’ Training Academy delivering training in an asynchronous mode. The effort was certainly worthwhile as the quality of education affects the numbers: the better the school, the more likely parents are to send their kids in, as they see the positive impacts of education.
…is through the number of girls we enrolled in schools all over Pakistan. Out of 1,101,549 students that we provided with the access to education 505,091 or 48% are girls. Girls need different provisions than boys to attend school. Parents are more likely to let their daughters study if the school is nearby, preferably within a short walking distance, and in a secure location. Many communities prefer female teachers for girls. And factors such as availability of bathrooms at school also play a major role.
At Alight we understand the need for gender-responsive education. Many of the girls enrolled through the campaign now study in non-formal schools, situated in their villages or anywhere in near proximity of their homes. They have been provided the books, and the non-formal schools do not require uniforms. They study under the guidance of trusted female teachers. And they feel proud to be the first generation of women, in their communities, to get educated. That’s a huge success!