The British Council’s ILMPOSSIBLE: Take a Child to School (TACS) focuses on the enrolment and retention out-of-school children (OOSC), aged 5- 11 years, in primary schools across Pakistan. TACS is co-funded by Educate A Child, an initiative of Education Above All (EAA), Qatar.
It builds on a strong community interaction component where youth volunteers are trained and engaged in an on-going enrolment campaign to identify and enrol out-of-school children. They then mentor the children in the primary schooling cycle across the four provinces of the country.
The first phase of the TACS project was launched in January 2014 with the specific goal of enrolling 185,000 OOSC. It had had three strategic partners (Children’s Global Network Pakistan, School of Leadership Foundation, and Free and Fair Election Network) and 27 implementation partners that provided technical and on-the-ground support across 65 districts of Pakistan.
In the course of 40 months, the TACS surpassed this goal and enrolled 225,000 children across the country. This was done through:
- A 15,000 strong cohort of trained volunteers to support enrolment drives that informed parents and facilitated the enrolment and retention of vulnerable OOSC children,
- Setting up 328 independent community based committees (called “Mohalla committees”) comprising of community leaders and other stakeholders who ensured stronger coordination between schools, the local education department and the communities and,
- Implementing DOSTI (Life Skills through Sports) interventions in 343 schools to create a positive learning environment and motivate children to regularly attend and contribute in school.
Following the success of Phase-I of the project, the second phase of the project was launched in January 2018. The specific objectives of TACS Phase II are to:
- Enrol 200,000 out-of-school-children and maintain a retention rate of 80% through regular follow-ups. Also, to ensure retention of the 225,000 children enrolled in Phase-I,
- Establish a strong coordinated ownership amongst community influencers by setting up 550 independent community based committees, coming under the Mohalla Committee component, and
- Enable and provide a positive learning environment through the implementation of DOSTI (Life Skills through Sports) intervention in 400 schools, and train 500 teachers to play a leadership role in their communities.
Take a Child to School’s effectiveness in addressing the challenge of out-of-school children through successful partnerships recently won the prestigious ‘Collaboration Award 2018’ awarded by the Bond International Development Network.
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.