PESHAWAR: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s elementary and secondary education department have signed a memorandum of understanding for the improvement of the girls’ access to quality education in Kurram and Orakzai tribal districts.

Funded by the Global Affairs Canada, the CDN$7million project is jointly implemented by the UNDP, United Nation International Children’s Fund (Unicef) and elementary and secondary education department, said an official statement issued here on Thursday.

According to it, the three-year project complements the government’s Accelerated Implementation Plan (AIP) for the merged districts and will provide three tier support to the education department, community and students to ensure equitable access to safe and quality education for around 14,000 students, primarily focused on adolescent girls.

“The project will rehabilitate 100 partially damaged schools and provide essential school supplies and furniture to promote conducive learning environment for the children.”

Schools rehab, provision of goods, teacher training, enrolment drives planned

Under the project, over 300 teachers would be trained for student-centered and gender-responsive teaching practices. Also, around 155 parents-teacher associations and mother groups will also be formed and trained to promote and monitor the girls’ access to education.

The statement said enrolment and retention campaigns to raise awareness on the importance and value of the girls’ education would be carried out, while health and hygiene awareness sessions are also planned followed by distribution of dignity kits containing sanitary items for adolescent girls students in 155 schools of Kurram and Orakzai districts.

UNDP, Pakistan, resident representative Ignacio Artaza said education was the first step to breaking the poverty cycle. He said the future of the merged districts was dependent on the harnessing the potential of its young bulge through formal and informal education.

“The UNDP’s Stabilisation and Development Programme has assisted over 800,000 individuals, almost 50 per cent of which were women, since its inception in 2015,” he said.

Unicef representative in Pakistan Aida Girma said every girl and boy in Pakistan had the right to quality education starting with the most disadvantaged.

She said the program led by the government with support from Global Affairs Canada would help adolescent girls and boys overcome the barriers to education, skills-development and economic empowerment which they face in their daily lives.

“Together we must continue to work to make sure that adolescent girls can learn. Enrolling girls in school will help unlock lifelong opportunities and contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty in the Newly Merged Districts,” she said.

Head of the Aid/Development Cooperation from the High Commission of Canada Christopher Khng said the education initiative was a good demonstration of how together they were working to educate and empower children especially girls and young women and assisting Pakistan in achieving the SDG 4.

Education minister Akbar Ayub Khan thanked the Canadian government and people for their support. He said overall, the girl’s enrolment in the newly merged districts was 33 per cent, which was very low compared to rest of the province. The minister said the government was committed to improving situation by taking various measures.

He said the hiring of 35,000 new teachers for settled and merged districts would be completed by the end of May 2020, while another 65,000 teachers would be hired within next two years.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2020

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