Stakeholders at IRC conference vow for girls education in Pakistan

Our Correspondent
Tuesday, Feb 14, 2023

Islamabad: Pakistan faces significant challenges in providing its citizens with quality education. The Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) for primary education in Pakistan was only 61 per cent in 2020, and only 51 per cent of children complete primary school. Thus, Pakistan has one of the largest populations of out-of-school children in the world. While the exact number of out-of-school children is difficult to determine, but estimates suggest that there are around 22 million children who are not in school. It is pertinent to note that the majority of out-of-school children in Pakistan are girls.

The Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) supported by United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as a 12-year commitment to reach the most marginalised girls in the world.

In Pakistan, GEC funded International Rescue Committee (IRC) for the ‘Teach and Educate Adolescent Girls with Community Help’ (TEACH) project. Under TEACH, from 2019-2023 the project strived to support around thirty thousand out-of-school girls in Balochistan. During the last four years, through rigorous accelerated learning programmes the project transitioned of over 5,000 girls into formal public schools after completing primary education.

Moreover, around 7,000 girls were equipped with financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills along with a pool of teachers being trained and schools rehabilitated with adequate facilities.

To commemorate the success of GEC projects in Pakistan a close-out event was held in Islamabad with diverse stakeholders such as policy makers, academia, donor agencies, civil society representatives media and project beneficiaries, Shabnam Baloch, Country Director, IRC Pakistan, in her opening remarks noted that to eradicate the barriers to girls’ education, a collaboration of all the stakeholders- Policymakers, practitioners, academia, and civil society is imperative and calls for further investments such as the TEACH project. Speaking on the occasion Sarfarz Laldin (Country Director, ACTED Pakistan noted that Accelerated Learning programmes and Non-Formal Education has solutions for the million girls left behind due to pandemic, climate change and natural disasters in places those have been struggling to retain kids in school during normal circumstances. Through special initiatives by civil society organisations, donors, and government; the girls can be given a second chance to rejoin formal schooling.”

Adding to this Ian Attfield (senior education advissr, FCDO) opined that in collaboration with the provincial government of Balochistan and TEACH project partners, adolescent girls have overcome significant barriers to access credible learning opportunities, despite both Covid-19 pandemic and flooding disruption. It is heartening to see a cohort of young women teachers are now trained to continue girls’ education in remote border areas.

Deputy Director Programmes, IRC-Pakistan Zain-ul-abdin appreciated the recommendations from various stakeholders and stressed upon that girls’ education goes beyond just enrolling girls into schools.