My school has made a very important impact in my life. Even though there were girls in my school who dropped out, but I was the only one left who continued. I thought maybe one day my parents will take me out of the school as well because I was the only girl who studied with the boys in my village.
But I made it through college.
Now I am working in a Women's Empowerment Programme that is also a PEP project, and I have witnessed so many women and girls having the opportunity to receive education and empowering girls everywhere in their village.
My journey in the Women's Empowerment Programme began with a lot of challenges that came my way. One that was very significant was women in rural villages that resisted learning. It seemed as my every effort to draw them towards learning things in the Women's Empowerment Programme did not work. That lowered my confidence for some time, and I confess that I was discouraged.
But in one of the Women's Empowerment Training I had the opportunity to listen to women who were working before me among the rural women, and they shared pocket full of their experience. One of the ladies said, "It doesn't matter how many women are willing to join the group. What matters the most is that even if one woman's or a girl's life changes as a result of the Women's Empowerment Programme, that will be your great achievement."
From then on, my focus was to teach women and girls who really had the desire to learn and wanted to seek knowledge. I gained some new members who wanted to work with me, and my confidence paved the way.
I formed a Women's Empowerment Group in my village and started teaching. I taught, and still teach about CLTS (Health & Sanitation), DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction), Importance of savings, and the importance of girl's education.
I have noticed a significant change in my group through the Women's Empowerment Programme; each member in my group has a changed perspective about education and the benefit it offers. In my group there are women who started from a very conservative mind and have become so open to the idea of girls' education that they have started sending their children and especially daughters to school, and are encouraging other women to do the same.
This is impacting the girl's enrolment in PEP schools and enabling them to continue their education. Moreover, this is impacting the issue of early marriage of girls in rural areas. Women now have an understanding that education can help girls have a better health and marriage - but all at the appropriate age - equipped with education.
Along with this great contribution that I am able to make with the help of Women's Empowerment Programme, I am encouraged to continue my education, and I am hoping to join a university. My desire is to take a degree of masters in Physics, and I hope to become a lecturer one day.
Allah Bux Mari school, khipro was opened by PEP in 2006.
This school stands strong even today in Allah Bux Mari Village. But how, that is worth discovering.
PEP targets communities that need work from scratch. The targeted communities are marginalized and they don't have any school running before PEP, nor any other programs.
When PEP builds a relationship with these communities, the thing that keeps PEP and the communities together is "Commitment", and a "Vision" to seek opportunities for a better future. This automatically builds a sense of accountability for each other.
Keeping the accountability in mind, a strategy is developed that is responsible for holding the PEP school sustainable. This strategy for PEP school is the contribution of community, teacher, and the School Management Committee (SMC).
While the SMC is responsible for the most part of the development work, it can only be achieved when the teacher and community are joined with the SMC.
One such example is, SMC and teacher together lead the school in becoming self supporting. (i.e. to enable communities to pay their children's fee for sustaining the teacher's salary). The total fees that comes from all the students is 4600 rupees and the 2400 is contributed by the community.
The structure of the SMC involves 4 male members and 3 female members. The members include titles such as, Chairman (leader of the village), Treasurer, General Secretary, and village members. The female members involve mobilizer from (WEG) and 2 village members.
The teacher who plays the part of the General Secretary in SMC sets the agenda's for the meetings. On the other hand, the SMC is involved in decision making process and helping in the implementation of plans.
To demonstrate, here is clear example for the school of Allah Bux Mari, "repairing of the school roof and walls 3 times each year". During the heavy rains season the roof and walls of the school hut got damaged by which the classroom material was effected as well as the attendance record.
For this, the SMC came together where they decided to raise funds to get the roof and walls of school repaired. During a community program it was announced that funds were needed, to which the community members contributed materials for repairing, and the Landlord of the village helped the SMC to get the work done.
This happened the 2nd and the 3rd time to which the SMC was actively involved in getting repairing and mud fillings done for the school roof.
This demonstrates the involvement of the teacher, community and the SMC together which creates a sense ownership in sustaining their school.
While this might be seen as an uncommon strategy to help marginalized communities become sustainable, the outcome however, is the community that really wants to seek change and empowerment, spring out through this strategy and become long lasting.
And, Allah Bux Mari school has proved to have a lasting impact on children as well as the community through their accountability and ownership.
Sangeeta was one of the PEP students when she was in Rano Bheel Elementary School, Mirpurkhas. After finishing elementary school in her village, she joined a high school in the city and has just finished high school. Now that she is only waiting for her result, she is learning a lot from her opportunity to work with PEP.
Sangeeta as a child has been a very bright student and supporting girls' education was always her passion.
Since Sangeeta is widely aware of the reasons why it is difficult for most girls in rural villages to join school, she has compassion for them and wants their parents to understand the importance of education by modeling herself to them. And she herself came from a family where girls did not go to a school, but Sangeeta believes she can make a difference by persuading rural villagers to see the result of investing in children.
Sangeeta's motivation to join PEP as a Women's Empowerment Programme Area Officer led her to become a role model for many women in rural Sindh. She visits women in villages 2 days a week, conducting meetings with them, and having conversations that involves listening to issues of poverty, child labor, early marriage, and finding solutions together for a positive outcome.
Sangeeta has taken a long journey from going to school, to beginning to work in her own community.
Her example has always been a model for all the villagers and children who used to see her going to a PEP school, and from there continuing her studies in high school. Although her parents came from a background where education was not important, her father however when faced the difficulties of sustaining his family realized that education was the only way to survive.
That's when Sangeeta's father educated both of his daughters in PEP schools and himself is currently working with PEP as a Village LEAP Area Coordinator. Even Sangeeta's mother studies in an Female Adult Literacy (FAL) Center started by PEP in 2016.
When Sangeeta was asked how she pictures her future, her reply was that she sees herself working side by side with her father because the cause that her father works for is close to her heart.
Sangeeta believes education is the reason why she is able to do so much in life, and she only wants to give back by educating her community.
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Before a Pre- school in Shanti Nagar, the little children were enrolled in PEP schools where they were having immense difficulty in understanding the way the teacher taught. In PEP schools as children from age 7 to 17 are enrolled, and with them the little ones from age 4 to 6 had little luck in grasping the curriculum.
Now that PEP has established a pre- school, it has become easy to teach little children with basics. The pre- school has a female teacher who is one of the PEP graduates.
The pre- school had it's opening in August when the PEP team came to the pre- school and distributed colorful furniture to the school and the students were given books and stationary that brightened up the smiles of children even more. The villagers said that they were happy seeing their children with books rather than playing in mud.
The little children have a very effective curriculum as well as a fun one that keeps children engaged all day. The pre- school curriculum currently involves learning basic letter land, basic reading, basic math, and learning names of animals, birds and food in English. The teachers that will be teaching in different PEP pre-schools will be given specialized teacher training from 7th to 9th September 2017. This training will enable the teachers (PEP graduates) to effectively use the basic curriculum for children in pre- school.
The PEP pre-school allows the rural children to develop a strong foundation that will help them in quickly learning and grasping the curriculum in older classes. We believe that through the PEP pre- school, Shanti Nagar is preparing their children for a more successful and bright future.
Pre- School Information:
Teacher Miss Jumna
Total students 34
Girls 14 Boys 20
Preschool started in Shanti Nagar from August 2017.
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This is the story of Abhidulla whose journey has been on an uncommon road. He belongs to a Muslim "Brohi" community.
What happened to Abhidullah will always be a fatal tragedy to think of. But only few are courageous to see what lies beyond pain. And Abhidulla proved that.
"In my community, people hugely depend on livelihood for living. I was the shepherd of our livestock and as one day I was tending my sheep in the fields, I didn't notice a broken electricity wire until one of my sheep got hurt from it.
My sheep fell down and cried out. And, as soon as I got near my sheep, I tried to hold it from the ear to help stand. But as I touched the sheep, the current flowed in to me and I was thrown away by the current injuring myself completely.
This fatal accident would have killed anyone, but it was a miracle, and a curse that I survived. When I opened my eyes, I tried to move, but failed. I wasn't able to move my body because of pain. Another shepherd saw me and called for help, and in a little while I was rushed to the hospital by my parents where I was taken in to emergency. A few hours later the doctor told my parents that I had become disabled from my tongue, legs, and backbone."
"Being disabled in my childhood did bring a lot of hard times for me. I was 12 years old when I became disabled but that did not take away my playfulness, but when other children my age or older than me made fun of me, I felt ashamed. I was called by different names and as I grew, even people started calling me names.
I had lost all interest in going out, be it to the city, wedding, fair or meeting relatives. When I couldn't help my family anymore in the fields or by shepherding, they thought of me as useless and I was left all alone. At this time I became 16 year old teenager."
Encouragement and Motivation:
"When I heard from one of our villagers that there is a school for disable children, I was surprised. How can there be a school for someone like me? and neither had I ever been to a school before. But, something sparked in me. I wanted to hear more about this school.
One of the elders of our village came to talk with my parents and tried hard to motivate them for sending me to school. They said that the PEP team came to our village and did a meeting about helping disable children and motivated them to enroll the children in school.
While my parents were still thinking about the opportunity I noticed a change in the community's behavior. They were becoming positive because they started calling me by my real name. And after a month, I was enrolled in a PEP school."
"When I started going to school, I was again teased by the students in class, but what encouraged me was the way our teacher took stand for me and through counseling motivated me to keep coming to school. Now that I come daily to school, the children have become used to seeing me, and some of them are even my friends."
What I Want To Do With My Life?
"I want to complete my education at PEP school, until then I will be able to read and write. After that I have plans to start my personal shop through my savings that I learned about in the 5th core element of Aflatoun "Social and Financial Enterprise."
My Deep Appreciation Who Believe That Disability Can Be Changed In to Ability:
"I wonder if I wasn't disable, maybe I'd never go to a school and always be a shepherd. My disability, no matter how painful did teach me some valuable lessons. And I am thankful to PEP, who considered our need for help. I never felt the kind of respect that I can feel now, and the hope that I can do something has made me believe that I am valuable. What I am learning today through a PEP school are surely my blessings in disguise. "
Abhidullah is now 16 and is in class 1. His parents are farmers, and he has 5 brothers and 3 sisters of which he is on the 3rd number. Abhidulla is living in Sanghar.
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When I was first told that I had to do a theater presentation on early marriage, I felt a need that this was important for me to do. I am 18 years old and I will be getting married soon. In my culture early marriage is the norm. And following this specific norm means doing the best thing for family.
But is it the really best thing for me?
What will happen if I get married at 18, and without knowing who my husband is?
I don't have any guarantee of how I might be treated. My in laws might ask me to leave my job, my studies. I might never see the result of the hard work we did for the women through Female Adult Literacy (FAL) education. I will have to adjust myself according to the ways of my husband, and in laws. This will take me further away from who I really am, and my identity. Therefore, I will lose a lot.
This is the story of many girls in rural and urban culture as well as around the world, who don't have a choice, and are sold through marriage, when they could be playing, reading, dancing, and teaching.
So, on my part, what is the best that I can do?
If through the women's theater, I can raise awareness about the consequences of early marriage, the next generation of girls will know. Girls like me who can't stand up to the norms of culture in this age can in future take stand for their daughters.
And the women in Women's Empowerment Programme have gathered together from all areas, of all ages, uniting together in one song, "Marriage is not for girls, let them shine."
The Women's Empowerment Groups are on the frontlines to open the eyes of the community to the fate of early marriage. Through their theater they have projected that page of a girl's life, who after marriage loses her rightful freedom, and most of all, her childhood.
Early marriage can cost a girl her whole life. (Watch video here!).
The Impact Of The Theater When Presented:
There was a huge impact of the theater on the audience that was watching the WEG Group performing. The audience included the women from Adult Literacy Training as well as the PEP office staff. The women in the audience could relate to the story, as most of them had personally experienced the adverse impact of early marriage.
The comments that were shared after watching the theater were tugging at the heart, and many tears were shed watching the women's theater.
The women's theater made a press release in four different local newspapers, and the video of the theater was widely watched on Facebook. (Watch video here!)
Finally, the theater that was performed by the women in the Women's Empowerment Programme had given performance/ acted for the very first time. After these women were given special technical theater guidance from Community World Service, they were more confident, and empowered to perform in front of their own community.
Sabra, who was one of the actors of the women's theater commented, " While the male dominant or patriarchal society teaches us to not to express what we have in heart, here we are taking a stand to break out of that mindset, and we hope to do the same for others."
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Do check out PEP ASER Test results inforgraphics!
How to analyze the results?
This is the result of the PEP ASER Test conducted recently in the month of May, and compared with the result of government ASER test. The 32 PEP schools that include in the ASER result are those that have SMILE (E-learning) currently running. These inforgraphics show what subjects the students have made progress in, between PEP and Government schools.
Steps to understand the results:
- The PEP Data shows the PEP school results of each subject that were test in schools having E-learning.
- The ASER Data are the government school results that were taken in government schools without E-learning.
-The colors below show the different subjects that were tested.
- Numbers starting from the left is the average.
- One to Five are the classes of PEP and Government schools.
It was not the primary purpose of this assessment to compare PEP with Government schools, but to show the transparency of how the students of PEP schools are making progress in their studies and where they are working on their improvements. Moreover, this assessment is a map to measure the teachers capacity as well as the students learning ability in all subjects (including supplementary curriculum).
With the ASER results at hand, we are now heading toward the 3rd phase of SMILE (E-learning)
The 3rd phase of SMILE means more students will be provided the opportunity to access Android tablet through SMILE plug. PEP has been working in coordination with Concentric Development and was majorly supported by David Weekly Foundation to provide PEP students the access to android tablets and integrating their use in PEP curriculum. The initiative derived a huge impact through remarkably increasing the learning abilities of students that has been shown in the graphs above.
How will the 3rd phase take place:
The 3rd phase will include 4 more schools to the existing 32 PEP schools where students will have the opportunity to use Android tablet for the first time.
What Does the E-learning curriculum involve?
The E-learning curriculum includes Sindhi apps from class beginners to 2 class, English story books, to improve reading skills, Sindhi web contents, and Khan Academy for improving math skills.
When Misree announced that he was going to start a pre-school in his village, the community members did not agree with his plan. And why would they? They had never heard of a pre-school before and Misree's idea sounded foreign to them.
While Misree was still thinking who to hire for teaching the young children, he too had a slight doubt if whether this was going to be successful. But after much convincing and motivating, 10 little students enrolled in his pre-school class, and Misree himself became their teacher.
Misree used his good mind to create local material for teaching toddlers. With his creative mind he made Alphabets and shapes with joining tree branches, and provided sand for his little students to have as much of a natural environment. His classroom is made of a small hut, unlike what a normal urban pre-school would look like, and children sit on the ground, but there is an eagerness to learn in children's eyes.
Misree believes in a simple perception, there is nothing that you can't do.
Opening a pre-school in his village was fulfilling a need as well as passion to find an innovative solution to help students who were dropping out of school. Because most parents work in the fields all day, they prefer for their children to stay home and look after their younger siblings.
And not only this, but a survey identified that students enrolled in schools at an older age are less likely to grasp the basics that are taught in smaller classes. This is because they are not prepared from an early age and by the time they join school in an older age, they don't have the cognitive skills necessary for a child to retain what they learn. And this can affect a child's grades.
Misree's small initiative had a vision, and he was determined to give it a try.
Misree went on teaching his little students for some time but finally found a teacher who was happily willing to teach. This teacher is a little girl herself, a fourth grader, but 12 years old. Her name is Bhagwani and bhagwani teaches other girls as well who dropped out of school.
This was another innovative way to help bhagwani sustain herself as well as developing additional skills, such as: confidence and teaching skills that can help her in future.
When Bahgwani first joined the pre-school, she was very shy and nervous, says Misree. I had to encourage her a lot as she was teaching for the first time and often became nervous, skimming to one place when parents came to see how their children were learning.
But gradually, as she gained more control she developed lots of confidence. Now even if parents come to see their children, she keeps on teaching and doesn't stop.
After a few visits, I noticed a gradual progress in the little students. I was very surprised to see what they had learnt. They were learning the necessary discipline of how to sit in the class and how to greet the teacher, and taking permission for water or toilet was a joy to see. The children were quick in learning through the local material that was provided. They are now able to recognize alphabets and are learning to write counting.
This was a clear indication that pre-school is an important stage for little children as it can greatly help them develop sensory and motor skills, give them a stronger foundation as a beginner, and better prepare them for the elementary phase. Pre-schools with better infrastructure is the need of the hour.
At present PEP is planning to pilot 2 more pre-schools from August 2017 in the different areas of rural Sindh.
Bhagwani's older students who had to drop out of school
My name is Mahira and I live in a small village in Mohammad Achar Khaskheli. I have just finished my high school and I have a dream of joining the Pakistan Army. My parents are a bit dubious about what I feel, but they want to support me in building a career.
My parents have always supported my education although they are uneducated themselves. I was a PEP student as well as my younger siblings who are also studying in a PEP school.
When I had completed my early education I was looking for an opportunity to learn and acquire skills that would help me in further education. My younger siblings are learning through E-learning in their school and when they come home, they share many things about what they learned, like how to operate a tablet, its features and the apps they're using as a part of their curriculum.
I was really curious because when I was studying in a PEP school, we were not introduced to E-learning, and it was difficult as well because we mostly did not have electricity in villages.
But now, the Android tablet has a SMILE Plug that enables it to work in any place, and the students in PEP schools are benefiting by it.
Then I slightly thought to myself, "Can I be able to use it?"
But of course I couldn't, because I was not a PEP student anymore, and I decided to forget about my thought.
But after some months, in a recent visit, we had the PEP team visit our village. And to my surprise, I met miss Lilian Charles!
I felt happy to see her, but at same time I was a shy talking to her. As we got in to a conversation, I figured the conversation led to what I would do now that I've completed high school.
Then it clicked me!
I hesitatingly but decidedly asked if I could have the opportunity to learn how to use an Android Tablet.
I was overjoyed when Miss Lilian appreciated the request I made, and now me along three other fellow PEP graduates are learning how to use the Android tablet together with the Female Adult Literacy Members. We have a class every Thursday from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.
I feel that this opportunity has developed my self confidence and I am able improve my English as well as develop tech skills that will surely benefit me in future. If using Android Tablet is making a difference in my life, it can make a difference for many students like me in rural Sindh.
Mukima is one of those rare women in rural Sindh, who decided to educate her sons as well as her daughters when investing in education was not considered as wise in her community.
Mukima never went to a school but her brother Kanji did, so she could clearly feel the difference between herself and her brother because of education. In Mukima's community, girls were not allowed to be educated due to restrained customs which is why Mukima couldn't get an education , but when PEP began a school in Mukima's village, she was the first woman to send her daughters to school, even when opposition arose from her community members.
Mukima had a choice to make her children work with her in the fields, (as usually parents in villages do) but instead she worked in the fields by herself along with her husband's help, and all her children went to a school. She embraced the challenges that were in her way just to be able to give her children the future she never had. Mukima has three sons and two daughters who are all educated now and even have desirable jobs.
Purkho one of Mukima's sons works with PEP as an Aflatoun Coordinator. Purkho went to a boarding school where he lived away from his mother but she thought it was worth for his future.
Her eldest daughter Padma is a school teacher.
Parsa has been a part of the Women's Empowerment Programme, going village to village promoting girls' education.
Jugdesh the youngest son has just completed his studies.
Mukima's selflessness for her children was because of the deep love that can only be found in motherhood. If motherhood can give children a promising life, how much more can happen when all the mothers of rural Sindh can one day make a big difference in the life of their children by sending them to school!
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