Education is universally acknowledged as the primary means of improving the quality of life, expanding opportunities and enabling children to fully develop their intellectual abilities. The problems that plague public education in Pakistan are common to many developing countries: inadequate physical infrastructure, unmotivated teachers with limited professional qualifications and the fact that many villages lack school buildings. Education for girls is particularly problematic: in many parts of the country there are no girls’ schools beyond Class 5, and many girls are taken out of school as they reach maturity and become ‘eligible’ for marriage. Poverty often forces boys and girls to leave school early.
NRSP attempts to improve the availability and quality of education through a number of mechanisms, all based on the idea that ‘organised’ communities – those with COs, VOs and LSOs, and especially those with skilled community-based Village Education Committees and School Management Committees (SMCs)/ School Councils (SCs) – can express the needs and demands of the community to their local Education officials. The other side of the equation is providing support of various kinds to District Education Departments, so that schools are run properly, teachers are well-versed in the curriculum and the teaching environment is ‘child-friendly’. Following are the thematic areas where NRSP has worked in the Education sector.
Community Schools: In remote areas where there is no Government school, we encourage the COs, VOs and LSOs to set up community schools. These schools employ usually female teachers who must be local persons with an appropriate level of formal education. Our experience has shown that community-run schools are either absorbed into mainstream Government facilities or are converted into private enterprises by progressive community entrepreneurs. Either way, the children and the communities benefit. Where they have been formed Village Education Committees support the school’s activities. The members are parents, teachers and/or administrators.
Our schools utilize ‘social capital’ and the application of ‘local knowledge’ in the form of Village Education Committees and School Management Committees. These organisations are able to have a say in Government schools in terms of increasing enrollment, reducing teachers’ absenteeism, constructing missing facilities and creating awareness for better educational practices. Our Social Organisers and Education sector professionals build the knowledge of the community members through capacity building sessions. The Primary school teachers are taught how to manage a multi-grade classroom and to keep records and above all how to teach so that children are encouraged to learn.
Since 1992, NRSP has established 545 Community Schools in villages where CO members have identified access to education as a priority. At present, 263 schools are functional other are owned by community, government or private entrepreneurs. 129 schools are currently being supported by various donors such as the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, the Balochistan Education Foundation, and NRSP.