Since many years the quality of education in rural Sindh has been questioned everywhere and many of us were witness to the deteriorating conditions, ghost schools, teachers, high ratio of drop outs, poor infrastructure, corporal punishment, low standard curriculum, untrained teachers, copy-culture and many more. Therefore, the civil society of Sindh with progressive political parties, media groups and other education friendly stakeholders campaigned to announce and “Education Emergency” in the province.

The campaigns were technically based on the implementation of Article 25-A ‘Right to Education’, which says the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between the age of five and sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law. Later the campaigns became stronger, when the international community set the goal number four in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which says all girls and boys in all countries of the world will complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030.

After the Education Emergency in Sindh last year, it was hard to believe that education in Sindh can be improved because private schooling was the only option for anyone wishing for a proper education. Perhaps, the government of Sindh was aware about the hopes of the people of Sindh. Therefore, the Sindh government gave the lead role to the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) for improving the quality of education in Sindh and also facilitated other donor agencies to execute educational projects in the province mainly the USAID.

Earlier it was challenging because the SEF was not enjoying a good reputation due to corruption, internal politics, poor performance and other conflicts.

Now, almost a year has passed since the Education Emergency in the province. Recently I visited different parts of Sindh and couldn’t believe the results and efforts taken by the Sindh Education Foundation for the improvement of the quality of education in the province. After interviewing some of the SEF staff at different locations I came to know that Ms. Naheed Shah Durani, the current Managing Director of SEF has taken many initiatives and introduced new approaches for the improvement of education in the Sindh. She owns all the children of Sindh as their own and act as their mother during negotiation with partner organisations and other stakeholders.

One of the SEF staff members, Ms. Shabana Ali, a Program Officer, said that all the success was because the Managing Director of SEF who set a new vision to ensure quality education and strictly asked all to follow the vision. Under her new vision the partners of SEF, who were previously known as school operators, were changed to educationists. This one word has changed the complete scenario and has improved the quality of the school in order to improve the quality of education. She gives high importance to the schools and ensures that schools are not machines which need to be operated, but these are educational institutions which need real educationists.

One of the educationists of SEF said, that in light of SEF vision, partnership agreements with the school operators had been revised and as a result many operators who had poor performance but were enjoying the subsidy lost the contracts with SEF. The new Managing Director of SEF faced a number of challenges but stood strong. The challenges helped her to understand the internal politics, corruption, and misuse of powers and resources of SEF.

Due to her vision, SEF management has sustained their decisions and successfully established child and environment friendly school infrastructures throughout the Sindh, which were not possible before. The capacity of the teachers working in SEF schools is being enhanced by the experts of IBA Sukkur. Many of the schools have received solar systems, and other IT equipment’s.

SEF has maintained the quality of schools and education as compared to private schools. The quality of teachers, quality of infrastructure, and quality of education is really impressive. The foundation has also terminated many of the highest officials of SEF who were involved in moral and financial corruption and were damaging the reputation of the foundation.

Still, there are many gaps which still need to be filled, the foundation has to work on organisational development, capacity building of staff, a learning atmosphere within the organisation, networking of foundation with CSOs, media and other stakeholders.

I would suggest that the foundation has to focus on establishing schools in backward areas of Sindh, including creeks of coastal areas, dry areas, and urban slums. Let’s not just focus on the quantity but think positively for the quality. The efforts of SEF have created new hope for quality education in Sindh.