Project #16294

Starting early with girls' education in Pakistan

Eman's sister attends a BRAC school in Pakistan.

Over the past two years, you have played a pivotal role in supporting early childhood education in Pakistan. What began as a small pilot project to prepare disadvantaged young children for school, and help achieve universal enrollment and gender parity in primary education, grew to include over two hundred schools in locations chosen specifically to benefit girls and other marginalized student populations.

Historically, children in Pakistan have faced myriad barriers to receiving a quality education, and the country has struggled to make sure every child is in school by the time he or she reaches the primary level (the equivalency of elementary school). To address this shortcoming, BRAC trained local women as teachers, and opened pre-primary schools for children from poor families, especially girls, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

This includes girls like Eman, pictured above, who lives in the Rahim yar khan district. When we first met her, Eman tried eagerly to touch her ear – in Pakistan, successfully reaching it signifies a child is at least five years old and eligible for school.  Eman's older sister is a student at a BRAC primary school. One day, she’ll follow her sister to school.

Thanks to you and BRAC’s participatory education model, almost 6,000 children from extremely poor families, the majority girls, graduated from pre-primary school, resulting in a marked increase in the number of students enrolled in government primary schools. Over the course of 36 months, BRAC opened and operated 200 pre-primary schools in the Haripur, Swabi and Charsadda districts of the Khyber Pakhunkhwa province.

With the project’s end, BRAC is pleased to report that 5,928 children graduated from BRAC’s pre-primary schools, a full 56 percent of whom were girls. Virtually all of those students – 92 percent – successfully made the transition to government primary schools. The vast majority of these students were from poor families and, prior to the establishment of a BRAC school, were not receiving an education. For most, this was because parents could not afford school fees, or because schools were located too far away. BRAC’s pre-primary schools offered free education and were opened in communities lacking schools.

Several factors contributed to BRAC’s success, not least of which was a contextually-relevant early childhood education model. BRAC’s experience adapting programs to suit country-specific needs proved particularly productive in Pakistan. This approach trickles down into other decisions that were equally helpful, like hiring a dedicated staff of locals and mobilizing mothers in the community to provide formal support to the schools and preempt negative perceptions. The project’s low cost of operations and humble profile also found a receptive audience in the community.

Like any project, there were difficulties, too, that provided the opportunity for growth and learning. They included many inherent to working in developing nations; for example, challenges coordinating efforts with the government and the need for more technical education expertise on-the-ground. In addition, this project would have benefited from greater male buy-in, especially with community leaders, to endorse, promote and support the project. These shortcomings will be addressed in future iterations of the program.

Still, in addition to starting students on a lifelong learning journey, early childhood education provides a strong foundation of cognitive and learning abilities, confidence, reading and writing skills and positivity. We encourage supporters of this project to consider supporting our complementary program in Afghanistan: Triggering the Girl Effect. The journey to ensure every child worldwide, regardless of gender or ability, can receive a quality education is, like Eman, still young. It’s also full of potential.

Student in BRAC school in Pakistan.
Student in BRAC school in Pakistan.

Thanks to the support of GlobalGiving donors, BRAC’s mission to reach disadvantaged students left out of the formal education system in Pakistan has been a success.

Your donations were matched and multiplied by partner organizations, which allowed us to educate more children—and more girls – than we had originally proposed.

BRAC is now running 100 early childhood education centers in three districts in Pakistan, reaching more than 6,000 students. These schools give children educational opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t be afforded. BRAC students are children with disabilities, girls whose parents can’t afford school, and others who face huge barriers to getting an education. 

This program educates these left-behind children and then mainstreams them to government schools so that they continue their education. This year, BRAC succeeded in transferring 93 percent of its ‘graduated’ students to primary schools.

Another goal of the project was to engage parents and community members to show them the value of educating girls. After two years in the community, the schools have gained the support of key stakeholders, including families. BRAC’s parent forums maintained a 49 percent attendance rate and at the end of the period, communities began to embrace and protect these schools.

Challenges still exist in many of the areas where BRAC operates. Security threats, terrorist attacks and government restrictions on movement make it difficult for students to pursue an education, especially females. However, by working closely with the community, having effective relationships with local security agencies and adapting activities when challenges arise helped the project stay on track. 

There is still so much work to be done to empower girls in Pakistan. BRAC appreciates the support from donors like you who understand that change must happen at the community level. Sometimes it’s slow going, sometimes it’s difficult, but once communities understand the value of educating girls, the tides will begin to change. Thank you!

Children learning in a BRAC pre-primary school
Children learning in a BRAC pre-primary school

With the help of GlobalGiving donors and outside funders, BRAC Pakistan initiated its Early Childhood Education Project in 2009 as a pilot with 20 pre-primary schools in the Haripur district of the Pakistani province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The project was successful in its initial phase and has been expanded to new locations in Haripur and two new districts in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province—Swabi and Charsadda. Two hundred new locations were chosen based on the absence of government schools, especially for girls in those respective areas.

The Early Childhood Education Project follows a community-driven model, ensuring active involvement by parents, BRAC teachers, and government teachers of local schools. According to a mid-term review conducted by an independent consultant, the model has been very successful as it found that students in the BRAC pre-primary schools showed significant improvements along a number of child development outcomes. The report showed that the students consistently exhibited improvements in cognitive and problem-solving abilities, improvements in fine motor skills and enhanced behavioral outcomes. As a result, children in the BRAC pre-primary schools are better prepared for primary school, and have shown to outperform their peers. The project has already been able to achieve a 94% transition rate from its pre-primary schools to local primary schools. 

“BRAC students have fine motor skills, besides a know-how of reading/writing as compared to other students. In addition these students follow instructions properly” said Mrs. Abdul Waheed, a teacher at the Crescent Model School in Haripur who is a supporter of the project.

Thank you for your continuous support, which has put us on track to achieve our goal of benefiting 6000 children through this project.  

Momina  BRAC
Momina BRAC

BRAC's pre-primary education program in Pakistan reaches children left behind by the formal education sytem. Often these are girls who are needed at home, or more often, children whose parents can't afford to pay school fees. Muhammed Rafaqat is one of those parents. He is a shopkeeper and a father of two. He said his son grew up healthy, but his daughter, Momina, was born with special needs. Together with his wife Zarqa, Mahammad consulted doctors in their area and were able to get her the best treatment they could afford.

Muhammad and Zarqa wanted their daughter to have an education, but it was extremely difficult. There were no schools in their area that could offer the special attention Momina needed and it was impossible to send her to a school in another region.

"When BRAC started its pre-primary school in our area," Muhammad said, "we met the teachers who informed us they could take Momina in. Our hearts were filled with joy at the prospect of getting our daughter into school."

Now, Muhammad says he and his wife regularly meet with Momina's teachers and get updates on her progress at school. She was initially shy and timid, but now her teachers say she takes part in classroom activites and extra curriculars.

"She has made lots of friends and she talks about them when she gets home," Muhammad said. "My daughter seems more confident now."

Zarqa became a member of the school management commitee (similar to a parent-teacher group that meets regularly), and both parents continue to support their daughter.

Thanks to GlobalGiving donors and help from partners, BRAC opened and currently runs 100 pre-primary schools in Khybur-Pakhtunkhwa province and graduated nearly 3,000 girls in March 2014. Please continue to support our efforts by empowering girls and families most in need of second chance at an education.

Early childhood education is an important step in ensuring academic success later in life. It improves primary school performance, raises math and language abilities, sharpens thinking and attention skills and it lowers school drop out rates. At the pre-primary level, BRAC targets underprivileged children to prepare them for mainstream primary school entry. Students who graduate from the BRAC model of pre-primary education, do better on secondary school entrance examinations that their mainstream school system counterparts.

BRAC Pakistan initiated its eduation program in 2009 on a pilot basis, using BRAC's success in Bangladesh in this field by establishing pre-primary and primary schools in order to promote greater access to eduation in the country and reduce the drop-out rate from government schools. Through support from our partners, BRAC Pakistan opened 20 pre-primary schools in the Haripur district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK). A total of 50 pre-primary schools in Haripur have been completed and 1,454 students have graduated.

BRAC USA still needs your support to provide school supplies to children and training to teachers! Please make a contribution and tell your friends and family about this important project!


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Organization Information


Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Scott MacMillan
New York, NY United States
$2,713 raised of $17,630 goal
86 donations
$14,917 to go
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