British Council’s ILMPOSSIBLE: Take a Child to School has been a flagship programme since it started. It was launched in 2014 with a goal to enrol 185,000 out of school children across Pakistan. Seven and a half years later the programme has celebrated the successful closure of Phase II with a list of achievements including the enrolment of 471,269 OOSC from Pakistan’s most rural and remote areas. The programme has maintained a minimum of 75% retention since its inception. The programme’s backbone has been its 24 local civil society partner organisations serving as implementing partners and three strategic partners, spread across four provinces and 65 districts. At the heart of the TACS programme was a strong community mobilisation approach led by 30,000 trained young volunteers who were consistently engaged in an on-going enrolment campaign to identify and enrol OOSC and then mentor the children put into schools through the primary schooling cycle.
‘Mohalla Committees’ (community-based committees) were set up across each intervention district, to support volunteers and work on local level education access and education quality issues. TACS also rolled out a life skills and physical education curriculum, named DOSTI, in select government primary schools, through building the capacity of teachers and schools to enhance student engagement in classrooms and improve retention. Through its key components, the programme ensured the active involvement of parents, teachers, community influencers, and other interested education activists to make education a possibility for OOSC.
The programme was designed in a way to collectively support the school enrolment agendas of all four provinces and our teams. TACS worked closely with the Ministries of Education at the provincial level and District Education Officials to compliment and augment district enrolment drives.
Since its inception, the programme has trained over 30,000 youth volunteers who have worked with 884 community based Mohalla Committees and influencers.
During the programme, several national level education conferences were held to showcase the collective work of partners across Pakistan and garner more support for the cause of education from provincial and federal ministers. A noteworthy mention is the ILM SUMMIT 2019 – a national education conference attended by 450 participants from across the 65 districts inaugurated by His Excellency Dr Arif Alvi, The President of Pakistan. The British High Commissioner, Speaker National Assembly, provincial education ministers and other MNAs and MPAs also attended the event. There was a great deal of mainstream and social media coverage which showcased the work of Take a Child to School in enrolling OOSC across Pakistan.
It is evident that the TACS programme has exceeded its numeric targets, however, the model has also achieved significant results beyond these statistics. While the immediate outcomes are manifold, the long-term impact is expected to be transformational.
British Council’s vision to make education possible for the most vulnerable communities in Pakistan does not end here. British Council is currently designing and planning a third phase of the programme that will work with partners and stakeholders to reach, support, and enrol 150,000 girls from the most marginalised communities through a multi-pronged programme. The proposed programme will ensure that there is greater female participation in the youth volunteering component, alongside increased female participation in Mohalla Committees, to work directly on changing behaviours that adversely affect girls’ education and empowerment.