US comes up with $155m elixir for Sindh’s education woes


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Sindh government signed an agreement on Wednesday for the US-funded project worth $155 million called the Sindh Basic Education Programme. According to a handout, USAID Director Dr Andrew Sisson and Additional Chief Secretary Dr Malik Israr signed the documents of the pact at the Chief Minister’s House. “This assistance from the American people is guided by our shared conviction that a more educated Pakistan can address the challenges and opportunities in a globalised, modern world,” Dr Sisson said on the occasion.
“They [Americans] are committed to work with you towards a more prosperous, self-sufficient Pakistan. The Sindh government will use US funds to rebuild schools damaged by the recent floods as well as for constructing 200 schools, improving reading in primary schools, increasing enrolment of girls and improving the nutritional status of students,” he added. “The USAID contribution will benefit 0.7 million children in Sindh with the construction of about 2,760 classrooms.” Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said that the agreement would help improve the standard of education in the province.
“During last year’s floods, the province suffered huge losses and the unprecedented heavy rains this year have also caused great damages, destroying the entire infrastructure, including schools in the less-developed rural areas,” he added. Shah appreciated USAID’s cooperation and said that by launching the project, the people of US have generously assisted the rain- and flood-affected people of eight districts of the province including Khairpur, Kashmore, Jacobabad, Sukkur, Dadu, Larkana, Kambar-Shahdadkot and Karachi (in sub-urban and rural areas).
The chief minister hoped that the Education Department would be able to construct a sizeable number of schools, which provide quality education, in the selected eight districts in collaboration with USAID. He further stressed the need to strengthen the existing systems and units for implementing the programme. He also said that the World Bank and the European Union, which have been the two key partners for financing another project called the Sindh Education Reform Programme, have also offered to finance the provincial government’s next three-year medium-term reforms priorities (with World Bank’s IDA credit of $300 million and EU grant of 30 million euros).
On the occasion, Senior Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq said that many schools on both sides of the Indus River have been damaged.
He appreciated the assistance of USAID and said that long-term planning has been evolved for increasing the literacy rate and providing facilities to students and parents.
Giving details about the project, Education Secretary Muhamamad Siddique Memon said that the overall USAID commitment is $155 million for financing the programme in Sindh over five years, with $81 million flowing to the provincial government for implementing the agreed programme activities, whereas the remaining amount of $74 million would be spent directly by USAID and its contractors.
“Accordingly, 0.7 million children would be added to and retained in the school system, giving them an opportunity to receive higher quality education. A steering committee would be responsible for the overseeing the programme’s implementation,” he added. 
According to sources, the USAID funds for the development of the educational sector in Punjab that the provincial government had refused to accept would now be distributed among other provinces.