16 October 2019 (Islamabad): A primary school for children of the Afghan refugee community in Islamabad’s I-12 was inaugurated by Shehryar Afridi, Minister for Refugee Affairs in the presence of media personnel. The school, first established in January 2016, was established by development sector organisations, Alight Pakistan and Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education (PAGE). The event featured Mr. Afridi inaugurating the extension of the school and appreciating the students for enrolling into the school.

The school in Afghan Basti initially had forty children and to-date has 110 boys and 85 girls enrolled. The school teaches grades one to five, with six boys having graduated primary school. The Minister presented certificates to the boys and congratulated them. Alight Pakistan has linked these graduated students to next level institutions so they can be integrated in the wider education system and continue their studies. Graduates received appreciation certificates, notebooks, and backpacks. Shehryar Afridi spoke to the media saying, ‘Pakistan has opened its heart for refugees. I applaud the work of PAGE and Alight. Educating a boy educates an individual, educating a girl educates the entire nation. These students should know they belong to our nation which has opened its door to them.’

Since 2008, Alight Pakistan is coordinating the nation’s largest ever out-of-school children intervention in collaboration with the Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training and Education Above All, Qatar. The program, known as ‘Educate a Child’, aims at enrolling one million OOSC across Pakistan and builds on existing formal and non-formal education systems in the country. Partner organization, PAGE, works towards building an enabling environment for gender equity in education, employment, rights, and leadership by acting as a platform for stakeholders, donors, policymakers and practitioners to come together and address the educational gaps in the country, particularly those faced by girls.

Pakistan has the second-highest number of OOSC, with at least 5.6 million children under age 9 not attending school. Collaborative efforts of the public, private, development sector and philanthropists have been tackling the challenge but a significant dent has yet to be made. The program has developed partnerships with Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), Provincial Departments, and civil society organizations to address this daunting challenge.