Pakistan is facing genuine issues to ensure all children are educated particularly in areas with less educational facilities. It is not easy to give them access to education, ensuring they stay at school and there is inclusion in learning. The enrollment and retention rate in Pakistan is improving but not at the required speed. In current educational studies, close to 22 million children aged 5-16 are out of school and Pakistan has the second highest number of out of school children (OOSC) in the world.
In South Punjab (Pakistan), there are different factors which affect access and retention of children to education especially in remote areas of south Punjab. These include service provision by the government, socio-cultural barriers, poor economic conditions and many basic missing facilities.
National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) has been engaged in ensuring access and retention of children in schools and promoting education equity and quality in Pakistan in three districts of Punjab (Bahawalnagar, Vehari, and Rahim Yar Khan) and one in Sindh (Ghotki) in collaboration with Washington University of St. Louis and the Government of Pakistan under the Education Equity and Quality in Afghanistan and Pakistan (EEQAP) project.
In Vehari, NRSP has been improving access and retention through a Community Based System Dynamics (CBSD) approach and Inclusive Education trainings since 2018. Different activities have been conducted in 22 target schools and communities to achieve designed outcomes such as Group Model Building (GMB) sessions with children, parents, and teachers, implementation of Action Ideas (Ais) suggested by the stakeholders, teacher trainings on inclusive education, and classroom observations and interviews with children, parents, and teachers.
At one school situated in Tehsil Burewala of district Vehari. The school was awarded to NRSP in 2017 under Public School Support Program- PSSP by the Punjab Government. EEQAP Vehari team started their project activities in January 2018. At that time children enrollment was 120. By engaging parents and the Village Education Committee (VEC) in GMB sessions, enrollment campaigns, Parent Teacher Meetings (PTMs) and other school enrichment activities the school has increased school enrollment to 175. Besides increasing enrollment and ensuring retention of children, teachers have been trained on Inclusive Education (IE) and Project Based Learning (PBL) to ensure child inclusion in learning.
Measuring the project impact, interviews and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted with children, parents and teachers. “It did not look like a school, there was less enrollment, less facilities in the school”, these are the words of Ms. Asifa, one of the parents from the school. She says that “Children would always waste time in playing games all day, there was no systematic learning in the school, but now the school has improved and enrollment has increased because teachers are trained and qualified and they are teaching kids with fun and games and this has resulted in an increase of enrollment.”
The school management, VEC members and influential community members have worked very hard to increase the enrollment and ensure the retention of students. “We do door to door enrollment surveys, conduct parent teacher meetings, and promote quality education by adopting good teaching methodologies to improve children enrollment and their retention in school” said Ms. Saima, the head teacher at the school.
The NRSP team also ensured the effective implementation of Action Ideas (AIs) in the school with the help of children, parents, teachers and VEC members.
Now the school environment has improved and it helps to increase children enrollment and their retention. The school management and the team are hopeful that they will one day get 100% of children enrolled in school in the village.
Written by Hira Habib and Farooq Sahir
Edited by Mara McKown