Despite being the most prosperous province of Pakistan, Punjab's educational landscape tells a different tale when it comes to children education. With a population of over 100 million, Punjab has over 22 million children between the ages of 5 and 16 years. Of these an estimated 15% are out of school – most of whom are girls.
On top of this, the existing public school infrastructure is grossly incapable of providing an effective learning environment. The state of public schools is in shambles. Housed in dilapidated, often dangerous, buildings, schools lack basic facilities. Conservative estimates put the lack of clean drinking water, electricity and boundary walls in numbers that are too large to ignore. In numerous cases, classes are held in the open where students face harsh and cold weather as the seasons go. These substandard facilities are, therefore, directly contributing to rising problems such as persistently low-enrolment, high dropouts and an increasing reliance on comparatively better facility of private educational institutions.
The provision of quality education which is accessible, inclusive and safe is of vital importance to the future of the family, community and the country. Urbanisation, natural disasters and persistent neglect by all stakeholders have piled on the pressure on the educational infrastructure. This is posing a significant hurdle to the children's right to education in a safe and healthy environment.
Humqadam-School Construction and Rehabilitation Programme, a DFID assisted ambitious programme has taken up the infrastructure challenge in real earnest. In collaboration with the Punjab government, Humqadam- SCRP aims to build 10,500 new classrooms in Primary and Elementary schools in 16 districts across the province. Work is already in progress for the construction of 1100 new classrooms in Sialkot, Faisalabad, Lahore and Rahim Yar Khan.
Pakistan missed the Millennium Development Goal for education. As the world commits itself to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is renewed emphasis on the importance of education. Across the province the construction and renovation of classrooms is being taken seriously. The present landscape is marked by a surge of activities to improve educational environment.
As a priority, work in progress on replacing dangerous building with a safe and secure classrooms. Humqadam, a DFID assisted programme for PESP in collaboration with the Government of Punjab has risen to the challenge of construction of thousands of new classrooms in primary schools and rehabilitation of 32 dangerous buildings in 16 districts.
The provincial government has made enrolment of out of school children its top education priority. A number of enrolment campaigns have been conducted by the government bringing thousands of children into schools. However, the capacity of existing school infrastructure is insufficient to accommodate these numbers turning a good intentioned effort into “get in and get out exercise”. The improvement of schools is the best way not only to increase enrollment but will also enhance retention.
Infrastructure improvement is a key component in any effort for education reform in Pakistan. Humqadam-SCRP is playing its role in this changing scenario with the construction of more than 10,500 new classrooms and 5,000 washrooms. With this begins a powerful chapter in improving the school infrastructure benefiting over half a million children in the schools which needed priority attention.
As the world commits itself to the SDGs, hopes are high for putting education at the centre of development agenda. School Councils (SCs), the School Education Department (SED) and Humqadam-SCRP's Community Committees for School Infrastructure (CCSIs) have created a grand alliance to deliver inclusive and equitable education for all.
Activities foster a strong sense of ownership and community involvement are gaining ground. The new tier of CCSI has been added to strengthen wider community participation and to ensure transparency and accountability most importantly sustainability.
With 661 CCSI in action a powerful chapter in community engagement is steadily unfolding to help build, maintain and sustain better schools.