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Educating at grassroots levels

Published Nov 12, 2011 09:09am


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Prof Anita Ghulam Ali may be 70+, frail and suffering from ailments, but she works with great devotion and immense energy when she is serving a cause that is uppermost in her mind – education.

She was once the Minister of Education in the Government but when she was asked to sign a paper ordering the transfer of 200 teachers she refused categorically because they were being sent to places where they could facilitate some government policies with which she didn’t agree. The only alternative left for her was to resign.

As a frequent visitor to the SEF (Sindh Education Foundation) of which Anita is the founder and the managing director, I have felt that she is an inspiring leader for all her lieutenants display the same kind of dedication and commitment their mentor has shown over so many years.

Last week the SEF organised the launch event for establishing 185 primary schools under Phase 3 of ‘Promoting Private Schooling in Rural Sindh (PPRS) Project’. In the first two phases as many as 300 schools were set up.

This was in addition to the adopt-a-government school programme about which much has been written in the past. Suffice it to say that about 50,000 students, enrolled in 227 government schools in the province, have benefited from this scheme.

In the PPRS project, entrepreneurs are invited to set up schools in remote areas of rural Sindh. No fee is charged from the parents of children who are enrolled there. The people, managing the schools, are paid at the rate of Rs 350 per month. SEF also spends something like Rs 35,000 per annum on the training of each teacher. They are provided with teaching aids. The students, more than half of whom are female, come from different ethnic communities.

In the Thar district, where there is a substantial population of Hindus, the number of Hindu students is higher than Muslim students, in quite a few schools. All pupils are given free books and school bags. They are also given the coverage of health care. The curriculum is thinly based on the one set by the government. Needless to say, it is enriched and tailored out to the needs of the hour.

The funding comes from the World Bank and is routed through the Government of Sindh. SEF keeps a tab on the functioning of every school through its monitoring teams, based in the sub-offices which are located in 10 districts of Sindh.

SEF insists that the entrepreneurs appoint at least one female teacher, though ideally they would like to have all female staff. I guess because experience has shown that they are generally more committed than their male counterparts.

Now, who are the entrepreneurs? They are local people, preferably the landlords, who either have their own buildings or are in a position to invest in constructing school premises. It is mandatory to have at least 1600 square feet open, well demarcated space. In case of existing buildings a space of 8 square feet per child is an essential requirement. The classrooms have to be well lit and properly ventilated.

One hopes some philanthropic organisations will step in to provide lunches to the students from impoverished remote areas, just as Aman Foundation is doing in the case of about five schools run by the Khuda Ki Basti Project in Karachi.


The writer, who jointly authored the bestselling ‘Tales of Two Cities’ with Kuldip Nayar and more recently compiled and created ‘Mehdi Hasan: The Man and his Music’ writes and lectures on music, literature and culture. He also reviews books and pens travelogues and humorous pieces, and can be contacted at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Asif Noorani, a peacenik, has been writing articles and delivering lectures in India, Pakistan and the US on the need for closer relations between the people of the two subcontinental countries for several years. He is the author of four books, including Tales of Two Cities, which he co-authored with distinguished Indian columnist Kuldip Nayar.

He can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (17) Closed

Leslie Nov 12, 2011 05:26pm
this is very good initiative to achieve education for all, however, it doesn't state in this article if the students were educated using their mother tongue and were the curricula contextualized to maximize learning which is based on what they know and where they are.
A.Bajwa Nov 12, 2011 06:20pm
That is the kind of people and approach Pakistan needs. Up from the grass roots. Like in France the mximum power should be with the local, education, justice and law & order, even industrial and environmental matters.
AH Mughal Nov 13, 2011 07:19am
Such articles give far more hope than the speeches of political leaders giving us false hope. Education is the only savior of our nation and even a small step should be highly appreciated. I hope this initiative will expand exponentially and make education accessible to every child of our country.
Imran Nawaz Nov 13, 2011 11:55am
We feel so proud and inspired by looking at the leaders/seniors like Madam Anita Ghulam Ali. What a wonder work she is doing and have done all her life.
Ghori Nov 13, 2011 12:13pm
Nation can not get success without educated society.It is dilimma for pakistani nation that no one come farword to support education except some. Teacher is secondry father of child, he need to show role model application but they adobt this occupation like part timer. We just pray Allah please on mercy shower in pakistan.
SHAHNAWAZ Nov 13, 2011 03:19pm
Anita Ghulam Ali hats off to you. It is appreciable that someone is working for such a noble cause at such a high level. You will find government schools in every village and every corner of town and cities. To know about the plight of these schools, you must personally visit such schools and talk to Head Master / Head Mistress. You will be shocked to know the details of deficiencies. I know of a Government Primary School in Batala Colony, Faisalabad. No wash room for staff or students, three rooms occupied by different Government Officials, no drinking water, no water for plants or school lawn, no sweeper, no night or day chowkidar (caretaker), four teachers posted for six classes, no desks for students and four classes were forced to sit in open places under trees etc. Who was responsible for all this mess? Surely NO one from education department bothered to solve the problems. This very school was adopted by an organization and in three years spent rupees 5,000,000/= (Fifty Lakh). Now this school is a Model School in the whole city. Now Education department is also very happy about it. THIS TYPE OF ADOPTION IS REQUIRED FOR MOST OF THE GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS, ESPECIALLY IN VILLAGES AND POOR AREAS. Wealthy people are urged to move forward in this regard.
nazeer maznani Nov 13, 2011 04:13pm
Matchless work by Mam Anita Ghulam Ali in the field of education. Despite of ageing and ailments commitment has never been compromised which indicates the height of courage and her being dedicated with the cause of education. In rural sindh a great populace has been benefited form her dream baby schools and people are thankfull to her for spreading the education where the government of Sindh has badly failed to impart education as corruption being rampant in the department. May Almighty Allah give her even more courage and strength so that the task of education may move forward in soothing manner.
Furqan Khattak Nov 13, 2011 05:46pm
Excellent commitment by Mam Anita i really appreciate her work and honest in education sector. Primary education is more important but unfortunately the dropout percentage in primary education exceeded 40% which really an alarming situation for Pakistan. We have to emphasis more on primary education as it can set the foundation for complete education building.
Agha Ata Nov 13, 2011 09:07pm
I sincerely wish a long and healthy life for Prof Anita Ghulam Ali. I am sure she has trained and inspired many women to do this job everywhere in Pakistan. I also believe that women can do it. Men spread their abilities too thin in social affairs, always interested in many things. Women can focus on one single project and can do miracles. I am in the USA and I am prepared to make a very humble contribution to the cause, provided I am sure it will reach the deserving person.
arifa saleem Nov 14, 2011 09:48am
our system of education is going in our country in two types one in urdu and second is english which knowledge we are giving in english medium it is not giving properly the students have to face many problems first they are facing problem to understand the subject the chilldren have been given education from nurssery to matric but our children are not able to speak and write in prooper way so we introcuce one medium of curriculum as they can cover go together within society.only those nation are making which are getting education only their mother tongue
anum muneer Nov 14, 2011 10:10am
the eduction system in Pakistan is going to b neglecting day by day. our government and concerned authorities are not giving attention towards it. The literacy rate is increasing day by day.The key of developing countries is that they are giving attention to their education system because they knows the educating youth is the necessary for their better development. so if we want to make our country prosperous in develop we should give proper attention to our education system. we have to make changes at grass hood level. we should free primary education and make to get education easy for all. we have to make one system all over country in order to avoid the difference and grow unity between us.
hira hashim Nov 14, 2011 10:57am
madam anita ghulam ali is doing a great work.If others leaders do this type work then our country will developed in future INSHAHALLAH.
Khalid Nov 14, 2011 12:16pm
Education is the base line of prosperous nation. We all know this famous adage but who is to bell the cat? Mr President is busy with some personal stuff then where to find the leader? The answer lies within us. If today I decide to step forward and help my servant or his son to go to school then likewise millions can be benefited from such a single move but are there any other like minded people around?
khadeejah Nov 14, 2011 01:07pm
appreciable work done by her. similar or more efforts are needed to educate the children of entire country, esp the children of deprived province, balochistan. talent is there, people there are competent as well as hard working, but they lack exposure. lack of education institutions is eroding the talent of the province, which can be fruitful or beneficial for whole country. i support these sort of efforts done by her, should be taken as an example and on our part we can try to fill the gap around us.
Salim Nov 15, 2011 09:44am
"The House was adjourned after paying tribute to Nusrat Bhutto who died 1 month ago" Such a SHAME. Pakistan is going through its Tough Times, And we are adjourning the house. WOW. Hats off to these politicians.
Awais Khan Nov 15, 2011 11:01am
By neglecting education, we have ended up in the present state of a polarized society.
Safee Akmal Nov 16, 2011 04:44pm
Hats off to people like Prof. Anita. We hope her servings become an inspiration to all and together we change Pakistan into a well developed and civilized country. Every individual will have to contribute something for the education sector. My humble contribution is in the shape of a non commercial educational blog through which we are trying to help others.