The Dubai Cares team recently had the rewarding experience of seeing the fruits of our labor firsthand on an inspiring trip to one of the schools in the Province of Punjab, Pakistan. One of the abiding memories was a scene where children and teachers engaged in an exciting discussion about basic mathematics in a vibrant classroom filled with colorful posters and drawings. It was indeed a sight to be proud of as it showed the direct impact that the Dubai Cares program in Pakistan had on the school children.
In July 2010, Pakistan experienced one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s history, as heavy monsoon rains caused mass flooding across the country, drowning one fifth of the country’s landmass in water and affecting an estimated 20 million people. Entire towns and villages were wiped out in an instant leaving countless people homeless and devastating the basic infrastructure such as homes and schools, which meant that children lost their access to education.
However, thanks to Dubai Cares’ timely and tremendous efforts, there have been major improvements in the education infrastructure and in the lives of these children, particularly in the Punjab and Sindh provinces where poverty levels are still very high. The two-year program has successfully created a conducive learning environment, which was what our team saw on their visit, and has had a significant impact on the education sector.
On May 26th, following a four-hour car journey from Lahore to Multan, Asma Abdul Malik, Country Program Officer, and Bahaa Hamade, PR & Events Manager, visited schools in Rahim Yar Khan, located in the Punjab Province, as part of a standard monitoring and evaluation trip. During the trip they discussed the latest program updates and future collaborations with Dubai Cares’ local partner Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and also visited two primary schools and two Early Childhood Education (ECE) Day Care Centers that were established as part of the program.
Aside from the 15 ECE centers that were originally established in the targeted district at the start of the program, an additional center that was not initially planned opened in Kot Addu, Muzaffer Garh in Punjab following a request made by the neighboring communities. These types of initiatives, which are run by the local community, have proven to be among the most effective because they not only provide community members with a sense of satisfaction and involvement but also the opportunity to provide their children with holistic development.
The Dubai Cares team also noticed that women in the communities had the opportunity to engage themselves in activities such as farm work, sowing, harvesting, cattle farming and stitching thanks directly to the creation of these centers. The government and members of the community voiced their appreciation for the benefits obtained through these centers and have expressed their hope in seeing more of them being established soon, a crucial element in the potential decisions to replicate or scale up the initiative.
Commenting on the trip, Asma told us: “Upon visiting one of the classrooms, where a lively recitation of local poems was going on, we were very pleased to see firsthand the direct impact of our program’s activities on the children. There has also been a remarkable growth of 19% in enrollment as of March 30th, 2013 in the Dubai Cares funded schools, which is expected to further increase after the implementation of intervention activities such as school construction and teacher learning material. Also, with parents now more reassured that their children, especially their daughters, are safe in school, the government of Pakistan has supported the inclusion of grades five and six to accommodate young girls too.”
The program has so far proven to be successful in helping Pakistan overcome the devastating effects of the floods and has helped provide and educational environment that offers a bright future and strong hope for primary school children in the affected areas.