Currently, Pakistan is home to 26.98 million children between the ages of 5 and 9 years who should be provided the opportunity for primary education. However, enrollment rates across the country are extremely low. Net primary enrollment for children aged between 5 to 9 years during 2010-2011 decreased to 56 percent (60 boys and 53 percent girls) from 57 percent in 2008. According to the Annual Status of Education Report of 2011, 32.3 percent of 5 year old children were not enrolled in any school facility whereas 57 percent children aged 3-5 years were un-enrolled. This study also shows that only half of the children enrolled in schools actually complete their primary education.
Pakistan’s education system stands at a critical juncture with the constitutional decree of Article 25-A declaring education as fundamental right for children. According to Article 25-A, all children between the ages of 5 and 16 years are entitled to free, compulsory education provided by the state of Pakistan.
Poverty, socio-economic limitations, gender disparities, a lack of educational institutions and an insufficient number of trained, qualified teachers all contribute to Pakistan’s debilitating state of education. However, lack of political will and interest are by far the most important factors affecting the availability of education and related resources.
In order to boost political will at the government level and increase the budgetary allocation for education in Pakistan, there is a need for a ‘ground-up’ approach of building community pressure on the government for education reform. Regular citizens, especially in rural communities, need to be linked to the education management system, the local, provincial and federal government, and to each other, to pool their resources and work toward advancing education.
In partnership with the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) and the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP), RSPN worked in 56 Union Councils in 7 districts of Pakistan (4 Districts of Punjab and 3 Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) to generate awareness for education, and Article 25-A in particular. Initiated in April 2013 and funded by the nation-wide education campaign, Alif Ailaan, the project aimed to mobilize rural communities to demand the implementation of Article 25-A from local politicians.
Community based mechanisms for local accountability were established by the Local Support Organizations (LSOs) fostered by SRSP and NRSP in these areas. Through this project LSOs hired 296 male and 258 female Community Resource Persons (CRPs) who created demand for education in rural communities, and mobilized people to demand education from their local politicians and the Department of Education. Collectively these CRPs conducted 9,828 awareness raising sessions with 196,098 people (96,039 men and 100,059 women). LSOs followed up with local politicians for improvements in schools and in the education system, meeting with a total of 679 politicians in 7 districts. The LSOs also coordinated with School Management Committees in their areas and with local school teachers and parents to ensure that the education needs of their Union Councils are being met. Some of the milestones that the LSOs were able to achieve are:
At the district level, a District Education Network comprising of LSOs and local NGOs/CBOs working for education have been established. This network advocated the need for allocation and proper utilization of resources to improve school conditions. The LSOs, Village Organizations (VOs) and Community Organizations (COs), also continuously met with parents and caretakers and motivated them to send their children to school.
Thus, an integrated system of accountability has been put in place, where communities work together and share feedback on the state of local schools and the education therein. This is a constant process of information exchange to generate pressure on education providers and the government, with the aim to improve the enrollment rate and level of literacy in these areas.
This project was concluded in February 2014. Since then, RSPN has partnered with Alif Ailaan to launch a second phase of the project. For more information on phase 2, visit the current projects section of this website.
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