Improving school resources and encouraging community support for educational reform in Sindh province while identifying and addressing primary barriers to access, particularly for female students.
Sindh is Pakistan’s second largest province in population and economic output. Despite its economic progress, however, education indicators remain low: more than half of all women and one-third of people above age 10 are illiterate, and 30 percent of school-aged children do not attend school. Overall, more than six million children are out of school in Sindh, of which more than 50 percent are girls. Of all the children enrolled in primary schools, 69 percent are retained until grade five, and only 28 percent until grade 10.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Sindh (GOS) signed an agreement in 2013 to implement the Sindh Basic Education Program (SBEP), aiming to increase and sustain student enrollment in primary, middle and secondary schools. With funding from USAID, Blumont’s five-year, $22.9 million Sindh Community Mobilization Program (CMP) supports GOS’ education reform efforts in 409 targeted schools by increasing community and private-sector involvement in school reform and activities, and by improving community- and district-administration coordination for increased girls’ enrollment. CMP is the bridge between communities and district education management to enhance community access and provide quality education.
CMP implements inclusive community activities that are designed to make educational improvements sustainable by increasing community support for their local schools and advocating for better educational provisions. To mobilize communities and increase community involvement, CMP engages school management committees (SMCs) and communities in dialogue about GOS efforts to merge, consolidate and upgrade schools. The program also trains SMCs and facilitates social mobilization plans (SMPs) that will result in the construction of 106 new schools.
The program also focuses on increasing the enrollment and retention of girls in school. Developing and strengthening linkages between communities and the Education Department, CMP empowers community women by advocating girls’ education and women’s participation in community-level decision-making bodies through trainings on financial management, community mobilization, nutrition and increasing girls’ enrollment. This initiative also provides small grants to provide missing basic school facilities like furniture, washrooms and boundary walls, as well as organizes monthly joint planning meetings to help up to 200 District Education officials collaborate with communities. So far, the program has enrolled more than 23,700 girls.
Furthermore, CMP supports USAID and GOS efforts to form public-private partnerships and garner other types of cash and kind support to improve access, quality and management of educational services in public sector schools. To this end, the program assists the Public Private Partnership Node of the Sindh Education and Literacy Department (SELD), GOS in procuring education management organizations (EMOs) to outsource the management of newly-constructed public sector schools, and has also reached out to local businesses, philanthropists, the corporate sector and communities to form strategic, resource-support partnerships for target schools to encourage sustainability and community ownership of SBEP investments and impact.
CMP interventions also improve the knowledge of communities, teachers, mothers and students on health and hygiene issues, which promotes sustainable behavior change in schoolchildren. Through knowledge, attitude and practice surveys, participatory action research and establishing linkages between government health facilities and CMP schools, the program is helping to address the root causes of malnutrition, empower communities to improve their lives and provide treatment to severely malnourished children.