110,000 and Counting: Take a Child to School Crosses Milestone
Over seven million primary school-ages children are out of schools in Pakistan, with more than 50% being girls. More alarmingly, despite finally declaring education a fundamental right for all children in the constitutional Article 25A in 2010,Pakistan also missed its Millennium Development Goal for education.
All is not lost though. The evolution and success of the ILMPOSSIBLE: Take a Child to School programme is proof that the determination to provide education for all is very much alive.
About the programme
ILMPOSSIBLE: Take a Child to School is an initiative to enrol 135,000 out of school boys and girls in primary schools in 60 districts across Pakistan where enrolment and completion rates are the lowest in the country by December 2016.
The programme was formed by the British Council in partnership with the Educate a Child Initiative and in association with Children’s Global Network (CGN), School of Leadership Foundation (SoLF), Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) and 30 local partners.
How does one “Take A Child to School”?
Abandoning the traditional top-down approach, the ILMPOSSIBLE: Take a Child to school programme builds on the Active Citizens model of community mobilisation. Through this model communities are empowered to take part in enrolment drives and supporting schools and parents in identifying and resolving issues around enrolment and retention. This approach creates ownership within communities and helps makes it sustainable too. The model can be broken into three parts:
A. Creating a network of local and global partners
The Active Citizens model works on the basis of putting together global expertise with local experience. ILMPOSSIBLE: Take a Child to School used a similar approach by working with local and international NGOs, local CSOs, community groups and education departments, who shared the goal of improving enrolment and retention rates amongst Out of School Children (OOSC) in Pakistan.
The role of the partners was vital, in that they provided support through staff and resources - more importantly they helped us in reaching and identifying remote areas that British Council cannot on its own. A strong network of delivery partners provided the programme with the support system and expertise required to meet its ambitious goals.
B. Engaging and training volunteers
The delivery partner organisations engaged young volunteers named ILMBASSADORS* and Mohalla Committees** in their respective areas, who were then trained on planning and implementing enrolment drives. So far 12,000 volunteers have been trained who committed to not only identifying and enrolling 10 children each but to also mentor them. These ILMBASSADORS worked with parents, teachers and communities to build awareness in addition to addressing issues such as infrastructure, teacher absenteeism, girls education among others. The idea was to create champions for education, to spark a movement where communities take ownership of ‘Education for All’ along with the state.
C. Identifying and appealing to schools and communities
Based on data collected, these groups identified and prioritised schools and communities with large number of out-of-school children and high drop-out rates. The enrolment drives comprised of community meetings in villages and neighbourhoods, door-to-door campaigns, school visits, individual and group meetings with parents whose children are out-of-school or dropped out. It also involved interaction with the education department, district authorities, and community influencers like elders, member of provincial and national assemblies, and other public figures. These activities were focused on raising parents’ awareness, assisting teachers and schools with enrolling children, and generating support for schools to accommodate new enrolments and improve retention.
After 20 months of training over 12,000 young ILMPOSSIBLE volunteers and 175 Mohalla Committees (Community based Committees), 80 schools engaged in life skills education and sports, and mobilising civil society organisations, communities and district education offices to work alongside parents and children, the programme has borne fruit. To date ILMPOSSIBLE: Take a Child to School has enrolled more than 110,000 Out of School boys and girls in primary schools across the country.
The work doesn’t stop here however. 25,000 students still need to be enrolled, and then creating a sustainable system to ensure their retention is also of utmost importance. There’s a long way to go yet to make Ilm truly possible for all, but the road looks promising.
*Ilm (urdu word) = knowledge. ILMBASSADOR translates to Knowledge/Education Ambassadors
**Mohalla (urdu word) = Neighbourhood. Mohalla Committee translates to neighbourhood committee