Apr 30, 2020

Thank you and Farewell - Project Ending Report

Ahsan: An aspiring engineer stitching car seats
Ahsan: An aspiring engineer stitching car seats

Dear Friends, 

Zindagi Trust was established with the philosophy that every child deserves the chance to transform their lives through an education, regardless of their ability to afford it. The Paid to Learn  (PTL)  project along with its subsidiary project of Secondary School Sponsorship (SS) began in 2002 with the mission of educating child labourers working in urban slums across Pakistan to improve their standard of living. 

With a heavy heart, we have decided to close down the Secondary School Sponsorship (SS) project as we focus all our efforts on reforming government schools across Pakistan. Through our work in school reform and PTL, we came to realise something: the need to improve government schools - which remain the prevailing school system and the only kind of education accessible to 60% of Pakistani children - is critical and has a far-reaching and more sustainable impact than creating an alternative system of education. 

Please read on to learn about the impact of the SS project which your generous contributions created.

About the program and the implementation

Paid to Learn educated working children from urban slums across Pakistan through an accelerated two-year course which provided primary education to children employed as street vendors, store or factory helpers or auto-repair workers across Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. As an incentive for the children and to make up for the loss of money due to skipping work, the children were paid a scholarship stipend on completion of every term. 

In 2012, we initiated the Secondary Sponsorship project as a way for top graduates from Paid to Learn to continue their secondary studies in mainstream schools, giving promising students a chance to complete their matriculation. Upon graduation from primary, students who had maintained 80% attendance and had scored upward of 75% (average) from Kindergarten till Grade 5 were selected. These students would then be enrolled in mainstream private secondary schools in the 6th grade by the SS staff, with the admissions and monthly fee, as well as the cost of their textbooks, stationery and uniforms covered by the Trust. Private schools were selected on the basis of the quality of education offered and the concession provided by them. In partnership with the Principals of these schools, our regional teams would visit these students at their new schools every quarter and get updates about their academic performance and attendance until they finished the 10th grade and matriculated.

Impact and Challenges

Since the inception of the program, our regional teams have partnered with 19 such private secondary schools across the three cities and enrolled a total of 556 students in the program, with the first batch of students appearing for their Matric examinations in 2017. Till date, 90 students have completed their matriculation and left behind a life of labour and poverty. 100 students from Lahore and Pindi are expected to appear for examinations between 2020 and 2025. 

Your contributions have helped students like Ahsan, a top graduate of PTL who was enrolled in SS. Ahsan is scheduled to appear for his matric exam when the lockdown is lifted and examinations resume. He is passionate about pursuing a career in Computer Engineering while he balances his studies with his job as a workman in a mechanic’s shop. 

Unfortunately, along with the success stories, the program also experienced a sizable number of students who dropped out before the completion of their education. The majority of such students belonged to families who had migrated from Afghanistan or villages in Pakistan to the larger cities of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi to find work. Such families would eventually leave or go back to their homes because of either displacement due to security operations or being unable to sustain themselves financially. In many cases, increasing rent prices also forced families to move away from the area where the secondary schools were located. A few of the working children were also unable to cope with the clash between the morning school hours of mainstream schools and their working hours as a food vendor, cleaner, car repairman or other day job.

The demanding transition from Urdu-medium PTL schools to English-medium private schools was also a contributing factor for students dropping out which was difficult to counter due to the unavailability of Urdu-medium private schools in the areas where some students resided. 

What we learnt: 

We asked ourselves the reason why some working children managed to complete their matriculation despite the challenges they faced. The answer, as we learnt from teachers and regional team members we spoke to, was the child’s own motivation and love for an education along with support from their family being another critical factor. 

Asif, a graduate of PTL who used to work as a scrap collector in garbage fills when he was recruited into one of our primary schools is now a budding actor/model as well as in his last semester of his bachelors degree in computer science degree.

“In Pakhtun families like mine, boys are not encouraged to study and are expected to start earning at a very young age. My mother was a trailblazer - she stood up for me against the family tradition and pushed to let me continue my studies. I showed great results in school and that encouraged my mother even more. Together with her, I overcame many hurdles that my family put in the way of my education.”

Another learning for us is that constant follow-up, mentoring and counseling with all beneficiaries (the student, their parents and school management) are required to ensure regularity in student attendance for a population that is new to schooling, as well ensuring extra effort to ease the transition of students from Urdu-medium non-formal schools to English medium private schools. 

Process of Closure and current status

The last batch of new students entered the sponsorship program in 2018, and the Trust continued to support them as well as students who were previously enrolled with the help of your generous donations till closure this past month. At this point, 113 top graduates were still enrolled in secondary school and had several months or years left until they would complete their matriculation in the coming years. Our regional teams have worked diligently to partner with similar NGOs and the existing secondary schools to ensure these students can carry on their education; an endeavour which was successful. Every one of these 113 students will continue to study, free-of-charge through the end of their matriculation thanks to the generosity of the owners and Principals of these schools. 

Once again, without your support, we would have been unable to help children like Asif and Ahsan who truly made the best of their chance at transforming their lives through education. We started this program when there was nothing being done for working children. With our work on government school reform growing and getting pace, we have learnt that having a complete school infrastructure provides students the environment they need to thrive and become educated responsible citizens and we hope to continue working on strengthening the government school system so that it can accommodate students like Asif and Ahsan.

As we say goodbye from this project, we invite you to learn more about our government school reform project and consider supporting it. You can make a donation today to Transform Pakistan’s under resourced girls schools!

Ahsan: Preparing for his Matric exam
Ahsan: Preparing for his Matric exam
Asif: A university student & aspiring actor
Asif: A university student & aspiring actor

Links:

Apr 30, 2020

Food Essentials for families of our KG students

In the Care Packages: lentils, rice, soap and more
In the Care Packages: lentils, rice, soap and more

COVID19 may limit their movement but not their nutrition

It has now been two full months since COVID-19 shut down our schools and put the whole world in lockdown. Our first worry was fulfilling the nutritional needs of our students who depend on the daily breakfast served at our schools. With no economic activity, many families struggled to put even two full meals on the table let alone the kind of wholesome nutritious meals required for the healthy growth of young children. The pandemic exacerbated the need to support the nutrition of these students, many of whom come from families who were already unable to provide them with any kind of breakfast in pre-COVID times.

In early to mid March, we conducted a household survey to gauge the needs of our students, asking their parents about the number of meals they were eating, whether they required food rations to survive the lockdown, and what kind of access to technology they had at home to be able to consume educational content. Based on the findings of the survey, care packages were put together containing food and hygiene essentials as well as learning materials including art and activity worksheets with colour pencils. The Food Essentials included: 10 Kg flour, 3 kg of daal and chana (lentils and beans), 2 kg of rice, 3 litres of cooking oil as well as tea, dairy tea whitener and sugar. Care Packages were sent to the homes of 118 students enrolled in the breakfast program at Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School (KPS) and 151 students at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School (SMB).

During and post the process of distribution of care packages, several parents have called their children’s teachers and expressing their gratitude for not only taking care of their immediate needs but also for morally supporting them in these uncertain and difficult times.

Pre-Corona Menu

Before the schools closed down in March, our schools were running their winter menu. 250 students at KPS and 300 students at SMB were served a menu rotating among the following: boiled eggs, potato and spinach with chapati, vegetable soup, khagina (scrambled eggs, onions and potatoes) with chapati, mashed potatoes with cucumber and carrot sticks, boiled moong daal (lentils) with diced tomatoes and capsicum. These were either served with a glass of milk, chikoo milk shake or seasonal fruits like bananas or oranges. The students had started enjoying breakfast so much that they started demanding the same at home and many mothers have come to the school to learn these recipes.

Donate!

We thank you for your support in the past and urge you to make a donation today to support nutritious meals for children in these uncertain times!

Learning Packs: Art worksheets and colour pencils
Learning Packs: Art worksheets and colour pencils
Care packages ready to be distributed to families
Care packages ready to be distributed to families

Links:

Jan 21, 2020

See what our budding artists have been up to!

Students working on a banner for the CLF
Students working on a banner for the CLF

We have had an exciting last few months at our adopted government girls’ schools, Khatoon-e-Pakistan (KPS) and SMB Fatima Jinnah (SMB). Read on to find out.

Art Program gets stamp of approval from world renowned artist

We had the pleasure of hosting globally acclaimed artist Imran Qureshi at one of our adopted government girls’ school - Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School. He observed the student artwork that was on display in our beautiful art room as well as a class that was under way. We got to share with him the various assignments and activities which constitute our innovative Art Program and also shared our vision behind teaching art at government schools. Qureshi, who is also a faculty member at the National College of Arts, the premier arts education institute of the country, said The way art is being taught here I have not seen at any other school, including expensive private schools, in fact, a few of the pieces on display here could easily pass off as the work of my own university students!” He specially appreciated the objectives behind each assignment and the focus on exposing students to a variety of complex mediums aimed at helping schools move beyond the traditional perception of art being limited to a painting or a drawing.

The best part was that our students got a personal introduction to his work and the philosophy behind it. They also got a chance to help create his installation titled "the Garden Within" - a comment on the current ecological situation in Karachi depicted through a massive mountain of crumpled sheets of paper on which his own art was printed - at the historic Sadequain Gallery at Frere Hall for the Karachi Biennale 2019 (a public showcase of art throughout the city). Through their participation, students learned how art can be used to express their socio-political beliefs and the different ways in which artists can interact with their environment. You can listen to Imran Qureshi’s comments and view our students creating the Garden Within here.

Enriching art field trips

The Karachi Biennale is an innovative art forum, through which the work of almost 100 local and international artists was displayed at public locations throughout the city to bring art into the public sphere. 200 Students from KPS and SMB visited showcases at Frere Hall, Ibn-e-Qasim Park, and the Karachi Zoo, where they experienced installations, interactive performances, films, paintings and sculptures, all centered on the theme of ecology and the economic, social and cultural aspects of it. Students were guided by art researchers and curators who informed the students on how the artwork was created. One of the students’ favorites was an installation titled ‘Stitch a tree’ which features the work of expert women embroiders of the country, reflecting the distinct identity of Pakistani embroidery and the importance of these women’s contribution to cultural, economic and social life.

In addition to our budding artists, our art teachers from SMB took part in an assisted visit to Ibn-e-Qasim Park where they viewed over 50 installations concentrated on showcasing how the city has turned into an ecological disaster, and later took part in a lively discussion on art education and art in public spaces with educationists from 10 other institutions.

Pottery comes to KPS

Students began learning how to create and design pottery as part of the Pottery Club which started recently at KPS. 50 students from grades 6 to 10 learn from our expert pottery teacher during the club period held once a week. Stay tuned for the next report to find out an exciting project the young potters have been working on!

Students beat out private schools to win banner competition

Art students from KPS won the first prize in the banner competition organized by the Children’s Literature Festival, edging out their compatriots from private schools all over the city. The banner featured artwork reflecting their love for reading along with a charming wish: I pray heaven is a library! They later accepted their award from the Commissioner of Karachi at his office.

Research shows that teaching children art at school leads to improvement of students' academic, social, and emotional outcomes. A randomized Control Trial study of 42 elementary and middle schools with over 10,000 third- through eighth-grade students found that an increase in arts educational experiences for school children led to a significant improvement in standardized writing scores, increased in interest in school and college aspirations and a reduction in disciplinary infractions.

Please consider donating today to support arts education in government schools and nurture future creative thinkers.

 


 

Students at the Commissioner Karachi's office
Students at the Commissioner Karachi's office
Imran Qureshi gives students a talk about his art
Imran Qureshi gives students a talk about his art
Students at the Frere Hall installation
Students at the Frere Hall installation
Making the installation with Imran Qureshi
Making the installation with Imran Qureshi
Student artwork in mixed media
Student artwork in mixed media
With Alice Kettle's installation for Biennale 2019
With Alice Kettle's installation for Biennale 2019
Students at the wheel during pottery club
Students at the wheel during pottery club
SMB Art faculty during an assisted tour by artist
SMB Art faculty during an assisted tour by artist
 
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