Ezza Jabbar & Hira Shami - Education is essential for every person. It develops the mindset, instils values and teaches abilities that are vital for success in life. Education not only assists in upward mobility of a country, but is also a vehicle for socio-economic development of society.

Nations who invest in their education system get fruit in the long-run. Regrettably, Pakistan has not yet succeeded in universalising basic education. Several economic, political and cultural factors are hindering the government’s efforts of universalising basic education. The government alone cannot handle such enormous burden, therefore many organisations and associations, especially civil society, have come to the fore to boost government endeavours in promoting primary education.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) use many strategies such as public-private partnerships; teacher-training; family literacy; community involvement and developing funds for the educational sector.

NGOs are very clear about the fact that their role is not to replace the government, but to ensure that the educational requirements successfully be covered, with respect to quality, affordability and equity in mind.

The National Education Policy 2009 set a goal to increase the literacy rate of Pakistan up to 86 per cent by the end of 2015. The Government of Pakistan and many NGOs have joined hands to achieve this target and are especially focussing on rural areas, where education is a commodity not available to everyone due to lack of resources, awareness and gender inequity.

According to Unesco (2006), the monitoring report of ‘Education for All’ (2000-04) shows that the literacy rate in Pakistanis aged 55-64 is 30pc while it is 40pc in the 45-54 age group, 50pc in the 25-34 group, and 60pc in those between 15 and 24.

These figures suggest that the efforts made by the govt in collaboration with NGOs and community participation are doing well to improve the situation of education in the country. Still, a lot of effort is required to achieve the very goal of universalising primary education by the end of 2015 under the ‘Education for All’ program.

A study shows that 36pc NGOs are limiting their services to rural areas along with 59pc working in both urban and rural areas. Thus, a sufficient number of NGOs are seen accomplishing their services for rural development through their contribution in basic education.

The National Rural Support Program (NRSP) is one such non-profit civil society organisation, working to uplift the literacy rate in both the areas. It works in collaboration with the local populace in designing, implementing and managing the area’s development plans to ensure productive employment and enhancement in the living standard of the people where it is working.

Developments in Literacy (DIL) is another non-profit association formed in 1997 to provide education for disadvantaged children in rural Pakistan. It is one of the leading NGOs providing special education to children in rural areas and incorporates an exceptional focus on girls. It educates more than 16,000 students at 147 schools in the most remote, deprived regions.

Despite of the participation of NGOs in the educational sector in rural localities, where they also provide facilities like free books and education, NGO schools still lack many other facilities. Most NGO officials, teachers, educationists and parents say the building and furniture used by the NGOs are in bad shape and do not fulfil the requirements.

Electricity amenities, availability of drinking water and playgrounds are also short. In most cases, such schools are also not in easy access of students while the teachers lack professional qualifications. Certain steps need to be taken to overcome these hurdles: the government or the community needs to step up and help NGO schools with insufficient amenities.

NGOs may also join hands to help each other in providing these services in remote areas. The students of NGO schools belong mostly to poor families and the students and parents need to be offered incentives to boost enrolment.

Teachers working in schools established in remote areas need the opportunity to improve their qualifications and capacity with refresher courses.

The wages and amenities for teachers should be enhanced to attract talented people to the teaching profession. The government should offer more financial support to NGOs and should help promote them and their cause.

The writers are University of the Punjab Institute of Social and Cultural Studies students.

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