ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has only utilised a meagre amount of around $3.5 million, out of the total $7 million, earmarked to UNESCO’s Islamabad office under the much-trumpeted ‘Malala Fund for Girls Right to Education’ during the last two years.
Under the programme, so far 6,154 out of primary school girls (OPSG) have been enrolled in the schools, with a target to enroll 10,000 OPSG in the targeted areas.
Besides that, the programme focused on retaining the existing 22,000 girls in government primary schools in the target areas and work for improving their quality of learning.
UNESCO Islamabad’s National Programme Officer (Ed) Zafar Hayat Malik told Pakistan Today that the Malala fund started in June 2015 and the programme will complete its life in June 2019, during which almost 50 per cent of the allocated funds have been spent so far.
He said that the programme objectives are to increase enrolment of girls in the primary schools through mobilisation of locals in marginalised communities. Besides that, improving retention and quality of primary education through improvement in school learning environment is also in focus, he added.
He explained that the purpose of the programme is to improve the capacity of relevant provincial and district education officials to create an enabling school environment for education of girls.
“The programme has three integrated components: (a) improving girls’ access through social mobilisation and advocacy, (b) improving retention through improvement in school physical and learning environments – activation of parent-teacher committees (PTCs)/ school management committees (SMCs) and teachers training in multi-grade teaching and activity-based learning and, (c) capacity building of education officials at district, provincial and national level together with a small research component,” Zafar added.
The Malala Fund for Girls Right to Education was established in December 2013 with an initial contribution of $10 million by Pakistan government, out of which $7 million were earmarked to UNESCO Islamabad office for programme implementation. A funds-in-trust framework agreement was signed on February 6, 2014, in Paris between Pakistan government and the UNESCO director-general through which the programme was officially launched.
To a question whether UNESCO is merely utilising $10 million fund given by Pakistan or is there any contribution from other countries, the official replied that no substantive amount of funding is received in the trust fund from other donors.
Zafar further said that the programme is being implemented in 13 districts across the country by local implementation partners (CSOs), and in close consultation with national and provincial/area education departments.
To a question whether the enrolled girls are being paid, the officer said that payment of educational funds to the girls enrolled is not part of the programme.
The programme in Pakistan, established under the Malala Funds in Trust (FIT), completed its two years of implementation in June 2017. The programme aims at enhancing enrolment, retention and quality of girls primary education through targeted interventions both at institutional and community levels. The programme is being implemented through eight province/area specific projects and one national level project on capacity building of education officials.
According to the detail obtained from Ministry of Professional and Technical Training, the programme has succeeded to enroll 6,154 OPSG, thus enhancing enrollment from 16,267 to 22,421 in 304 girl primary schools in the targeted areas. However, there are still over 10,000 OPSG in the GREP target areas who will be enrolled by the end of the programme, which is a major challenge besides retaining the existing 22,421 girls in schools and ensuring that they learn better.
The detail showed that two years of implementation has produced a variety of intermediate results, success figures, case studies and data from the target areas, which offer an opportunity to review the progress, list the challenges faced and propose any mid-course correction, both in terms of geographic and operational focus of the programme.
A midterm review of the programme was carried out in November 2017 and in December 2017. Besides various geography specific recommendations, the strategic recommendation proposed in the MTR includes expansion of the geographical area, focused approach on retention, strengthening learning environment and programme extension beyond June 2018.
On December 10, 2012, UNESCO and Pakistan launched the Malala Fund for Girls’ Education at a high-level event held as part of the celebrations for Human Rights Day. At the event, the then president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari announced that his country would donate the first $10 million.
Opened by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and president Zardari, the occasion was dedicated to 15-year-old Pakistani school girl Malala Yousafzai, who was the target of an assassination attempt by the Taliban because of her defence of the right of girls to go to school.
The aim was to give a new momentum to the quest to provide access to school for all girls by 2015.