Written & Pictured By: Syed Muhammad Abdullah Hameed – ARC Pakistan/Islamabad

ARC Pakistan is constantly striving for wider community participation to achieve better results and sustainability. Community engagement is our core philosophy and is a vital component in the overall development process. A community iftar; one of its own kind was hosted by ARC Pakistan and PAGE – Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education for the slum community of Sector H-13, Islamabad at Afghan Kachi Abadi. The iftar dinner was attended by more than 300 individuals including community elders, ARC Staff members and 220 young students enrolled in Star School established by ARC Pakistan.

One of the major disruptions in the refugees’ life is the discontinuation of educational opportunity for their children. The internally and externally displaced people, when living in the camps require priority attention on education. Afghan Katchi Abadi was no alien putting hundreds of out-of-school children at risk owing to lack of public schools in the vicinity. ARC Pakistan took the challenge in the real earnest and established Star School in January 2016. The school now has a student population of more than 220 including boys and girls keen to acquire education.

Active community involvement is vital for the effectiveness of any development or reform initiative. It is only through developing a sense of ownership and contribution within the community that sustainable change can be achieved. This idea behind community iftar is to put the community at the center. Local Mosque Imam – Qari Ali Muhammad Dishani and School Principal Mr. Sahib Shah have played a proactive role in identifying community-based vendors to organize this Iftar. Their enthusiastic involvement is a testament to the community’s dedication and ownership in supporting program activities of ARC Pakistan.

Senior Management of ARC Pakistan had an engaging one-on-one time with community elders to discuss the current situation and future possibilities to open more non-formal schools in the community. The SMT later proceeded for an interactive session with young students on their lives in a school.

Appreciating the community’s effort to run Star School effectively, Deputy Chief of Party ARC Pakistan, Mr. Zabardast Khan Bangash said,

It’s a proud moment to see community elders and parents putting their heart in education and sending their children to schools despite living in a Katchi Abadi (Mud houses).

ARC Pakistan also distributed goodie packs to school going children at the culmination of Iftar. The surprise brought smiles on hundreds of students and the young girls were left feeling encouraged and energetic by a pleasant gesture from ARC Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, Country Representative of ARC Pakistan, Dr. Tariq Cheema said,

It was only through effective community engagement that we were able to bridge the trust deficit among parents in sending their children to school.

Dr. Cheema also pledged organization’s support in opening Two more non-formal schools in Afghan Katchi Abadi as more parents are willing to send children to school than ever before

ARC Pakistan is committed to improving educational outcomes in the country through its Educate A Child (EAC) program funded by Education Above All (EAA) Qatar. The program aims to enroll One Million Out-of-School Children (OOSC) in 55 districts across Pakistan in a span of three years. The program in the first year achieved the challenging target of enrolling 178,000 OOSCs and is on track to achieve the ambitious target in the program’s life (2018-20).