Generally, meaningful community involvement determines the extent of social development a community can achieve; failing to garner such involvement risks growth in the social, educational and political arena. Hassan Panhwar, a small village of Bin Qasim Town, Karachi was facing infrastructural and behavioral challenges, which created massive hurdles in girls attaining an education. Sindh Community Mobilization Program (CMP) started its intervention in this community in 2013 when the Government Boys Primary School (GBPS) was selected as one of the program’s focused neighboring/non-construction schools.
CMP realized through some focus group discussions and broad based meetings that it was not only the lack of basic facilities in schools that affect quality of education, but also the community’s attitude toward education—particularly concerning girls’ post primary schooling, which limits girls’ access to their basic right of education. Since inception, CMP has undertook rigorous efforts to ensure gender equity through the inclusion of women in decision making bodies so they can positively contribute to the education system.
CMP, in collaboration with the school management committee (SMC), organized various activities, such as: the restructuring of sub-committees; creating dialogue with community members for women’s participation in the SMC; focus group discussions to understand and address girls’ drop out issue; and community recognition days to acknowledge their contribution to the betterment of education. As an outcome of these activities, women transformed into change agents, helping to promote education and strengthen the community’s coordination with the education department.
The story of Asma, a brilliant student who had completed elementary school but whose father restricted her to home and denied her permission to attend secondary school, represents Hassam Panhwar village’s transformation. When Asma reached out to new change agents like the head teacher and SMC chairperson for help, their skills were put to test.
Asma was equally brilliant in curricular and extracurricular activities and keen to continue her education. She felt that the vibrant SMC and active head teacher would be able to convince her father. Upon her request and interest toward education, the SMC chairperson and head teacher conducted a dialogue with Asma’s parents to internalize the importance of education and the assurance of a safe school environment. It took them a year and a half to make Asma’s father agree to allow his daughter to pursue further studies. Asma’s joy had no limits when she was re-enrolled in grade nine after her dropout a year and a half ago.
“Hadn’t there been a mobilized and active SMC, I would not have the chance to continue my education,” Asma said. Such efforts have not only allowed Asma to pursue her dreams, but have also paved the way for other girls her age to attain their basic right of education in a safe and protective environment.
CMP is a USAID-funded program that supports the Government of Sindh’s education reform and USAID’s Sindh Basic Education Program. CMP improves school resources and encourages community support for educational reform in Sindh province while identifying and addressing primary barriers to access, particularly for female students.