ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan at the launch of ‘Ehsaas Education Stipend’ programme.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan at the launch of ‘Ehsaas Education Stipend’ programme.—APP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said the government was committed to sending all children to schools by giving incentives to them.

“Over 20 million children in the country are out of schools. Efforts are under way to ensure their inclusion in the educational mainstream,” the prime minister said while launching the Ehsaas Education Stipends programme.

The programme is aimed at providing financial assistance to deserving households for the education of their children at primary, secondary and higher secondary levels.

Rolled out in 160 districts across the country, the programme has been structured to give higher amount of stipend to girls as compared to boys.

The prime minister said ensuring education for all was a priority of the government, adding that stipends as incentives would be a step to encourage parents to send their children, particularly girls, to schools.

He said an educated woman could contribute more positively to society and lauded the policy of Ehsaas Education Stipends programme to give higher amount to the girls.

Deserving students in 160 districts will benefit from initiative

Terming educated human resources a great asset for a nation, he said it was important to provide educational opportunities to both boys and girls.

He dismissed the impression in western world that Pakistanis did not want to educate the girls. He recalled that during his visits to different parts of the country, he found no parents opposing the right of education for their daughters.

However, he said the factors including distant schools or unavailability of female teachers could be a reason.

Imran Khan said it was mainly the responsibility of the government to provide facilities of education to all.

He appreciated that by use of information technology, the stipends would be disbursed transparently after checking of fake entries and ghost schools, adds APP.

The prime minister also announced a one-time Ehsaas graduation bonus of Rs3,000 to encourage girls to complete primary education. This award is being given to girl students from Ehsaas eligible families completing Grade 5. The graduation bonus has been designed to encourage girls’ education till secondary level.

Special Assistant to the PM on Social Welfare Dr Sania Nishtar said under the Ehsaas Education Stipends programme, primary schoolgoing boys would get a quarterly stipend of Rs1,500 and girls Rs2,000; secondary school boys would receive Rs2,500 and girls Rs3,000; and at higher secondary level, boys will get Rs3,500 and girls Rs4,000.

She said stipends would be paid biometrically to mothers on attainment of 70 per cent attendance of their children.

She said as part of ‘Post-Covid Ehsaas Strategy’, Ehsaas Education Stipends would empower the deserving families to remove financial barriers in accessing higher education.

Poverty is one of the most persistent barriers to acquiring education. Presently, there are 18.7 million children in the age group of 6 to 16 who remain out of school in the country and the fallout of Covid-19 has accentuated it.

The education conditional cash transfers are an important pillar of Ehsaas and are included in the Ehsaas framework as Policy No. 73.

The education conditional cash transfers serve the dual purpose of socially assisting vulnerable households and at the same time reducing the number of out of school children, which is an important outcome for Pakistan.

Pakistan has been running an education conditional cash transfer for primary school going children called Waseela-i-Taleem since 2012 in selected districts. The programme encountered a number of challenges, including high administrative cost charged by NGOs that were administering the programme, high error and fraud due to the programme being paper-based, weak compliance monitoring, limited human resources to enroll students into the programme and low stipend amount being given to children.

Also, it was limited to Grade 5 and did not include secondary education.

Studies reveal that school drop-out rate increases with age, particularly for girls in classes 5 to 8, owing to distance from the school and other reasons.

Waseela-i-Taleem was limited in geographic scope and lacked appropriate federal-provincial partnership. Also, payments to beneficiaries were being made through the old Benazir Income Support Programme payment system which was plagued by many challenges.

On the other hand, Ehsaas Education Stipends programme has a cost-effective institutional infrastructure developed to be implemented nationwide while reliance on NGOs has been eliminated.

Thus the operational cost has been reduced from 8 to 3 per cent. The end-to-end digitisation of a number of processes has eliminated the space for abuse in terms of ineligible children being enrolled. The compliance monitors have been hired and a project monitoring unit has been established.

Also, through a memorandum of understanding signed with the National Commission on Human Development, additional 1000 staff members have been engaged to enroll students. The stipend amount has been doubled for primary school going children and further increased for girls.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2021

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