The past couple of months from October 2022 to February 2023 have seen tremendous progress for the two adopted government schools of Zindagi Trust.
Following a period of engaging the students vigorously in extracurricular activities such as the summer camp and digital safety workshops, the emphasis shifted solely towards academics and providing students ample time to focus on achieving well in their end of term exams.
Zindagi Trust’s professional development team utilised this time to evaluate teachers’ performance by conducting observation cycles, supporting the teachers where required through a needs analysis and formulating a plan for improvement on the pedagogy front by analysing their findings.
Simultaneously, efforts are underway in improving the internal mechanism of child safety and protection in the schools. To support this, a professional clinical psychologist with extensive experience in the domain of child safety has been onboarded for consultancy, leading trainings and restructuring the mechanism towards utmost efficacy.
In addition to this, keeping true to its vision of promoting and where possible-delivering quality education throughout the schools of Pakistan, Zindagi Trust has partnered with different organisations contributing to the same. In partnership with STEAM Pakistan, Zindagi Trust is currently assiting the development of an Arts program for government schools. As part of this program, the lessons designed will be personally catered to the needs of those schools that do not have prior access to art education or professional teachers to establish the program.
Similarly, in partnership with Tabadalab, Zindagi Trust is helping the execution of a mass digital-educational campaign involving both students and parents encouraging a healthy dialouge between the two parties regarding students’ academic journey.
In collaboration with Meta, an exclusive online follow-up session on child safety mechanisms was held in January 2023 for selected representatives from various NGOs, stakeholders actively involved in child welfare rights, and institutions working directly with children. The session was a continuation of a policy dialouge held in mid-2022 and emphasized the importance of working together as a community to ensure that children in Pakistan have access to safe and appropriate digital resources.
At the schools, to celebrate the conclusion of exams and to provide a break from the traditional classroom setting, students were taken for field trips that were both informative and entertaining. The younger grade students embarked on a delightful fieldtrip to the zoo, observing and learning about the diverse array of animals and their habitats. The middle and senior grades visited the State Bank of Pakistan where they gained valuable insights into the workings of the financial system, the role of banks in the economy and the importance of financial literacy and responsibility.
Overall, Zindagi Trust has made great strides in the last five months and we are looking forward to even more progress in the coming months.
As an active agent of change, Zindagi Trust has been taking initiatives to remodel the educational landscape of Pakistan. Zindagi Trust believes it can advocate for a country-wide reform by leading through example, i.e better governance, academic enrichment, and teacher professional development in its adopted government schools.
One intervention that falls under governance is ensuring students' safety in the two adopted government schools. Enabling a safe environment for its students at the schools and beyond remains a priority for Zindagi Trust. For this purpose, Zindagi Trust has collaborated with leading global tech companies to look over the digital safety of its students.
In July, Zindagi Trust in collaboration with Meta (Facebook) hosted a policy dialogue at The Government Elementary College of Education in Karachi to identify ways to make digital platforms safer for children and share policy recommendations with government agencies to help create better reporting mechanisms. Relevant stakeholders such as representatives from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), The National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan, the Sindh Child Protection Authority, the National Commission on the Rights of Child, and the Digital Rights Foundation were invited to share their valuable insights and pave a way forward together in ensuring that children's safety is prioritized even in the virtual realm.
A follow-up policy dialogue is underway, in the meantime efforts are in progress to strengthen the team internally to be well-versed in safety measures on digital measures for which a training session has been scheduled in the coming week. Meta's APAC and Public Policy team from Singapore will be visiting Karachi to train the staff at Zindagi Trust on safety tools within the platform of apps (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Messenger) and a revision of how to report violating content.
At the schools, as part of the digital safety campaign in collaboration with TikTok, workshops are in progress for teachers, students aged 13+ and their parents to disseminate information on how to navigate the digital world safely. These workshops provide comprehensive guidance on the different harms present on the internet, rules of interacting with strangers online, protection and correction mechanisms, safety features and settings present across digital applications, cyber laws and local reporting. Furthermore, an essential component of the workshops is building and strengthening trusting relationships between students and their parents and the students and their teachers so students have trusted adults to turn to incase of any cyber trouble.
To maximise student retention and learning on this topic, a digital safety module has been included in the Life Skill Based Education Curriculum in the schools of Zindagi Trust.
On the pedagogy front, in August before the academic year commenced, an In-Service Training program (INSET) was held in both adopted schools of Zindagi Trust, stretching over a couple of days where teachers and subjects leads received multiple trainings and workshops categorised into multiple overarching themes such as mental health, child protection, professionalism, performance evaluation and effective teaching practises. These themes further branched into sub-topics such as workshops on teaching practises included addressing student centred learning, strategic teaching, lesson planning and homework management, effective utilization of instructional time, reflective practices etcetera.
While emotional and intellectual well-being of students is of paramount importance, Zindagi Trust strives to play an active part in the physical welfare of their students as well. A Life Saving Skills training was given to 60 teachers at SMB Fatima Jinnah School as part of the Pakistan Life Savers Programme (PLSP) by Aga Khan University Hospital. The attendees got to practise CPR, body position and depth of compressions, amount of force needed to control heavy bleeding in an emergency, etcetera. At the end of the training, the PLSP instructors examined the teachers and marked them on the basis of the performances after which they were awarded certification.
Furthermore, in September an inauguration ceremony of the Pediatric Covid Vaccination Campaign was held at the Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School. The chief guests were District Health East, DC East and other members WHO, UNICEF and USAID. As part of this campaign, Pfizer vaccines are being administered to children aged 5-11 in all public schools including the schools of Zindagi Trust which will be the first step towards safeguarding the health of our children.
As the academic year continues, Zindagi Trust makes sure to provide its students with opportunities to engage in multiple extra-curricular activities as it believes in dispensing holistic education. Over the period of July-October students engaged in multiple extra-curricular activities such as attending an interactive science exhibition at the lincoln’s corner where they learned about virtual reality, 3D printers, robotics and simulations etcetera. Alongside this a few workshops on climate change were held to create awareness regarding the on-going climate crisis and encourage students to make efforts of living sustainably.
As the year progresses forward, Zindagi Trust strides forward as well with its continuous efforts of transforming the schools of Pakistan for the better. The two adopted schools of Zindagi Trust - SMB Fatima Jinnah and Khatoon-e-Pakistan school incorporated different activities to make learning efficient for students. Keeping this objective in mind, a Math Olympiad was arranged in both schools around mid-March 2022 where students competed against other teams internally to solve math problems and learned about teamwork and time management. Two teams from Grades 5 and 6 secured 1st and 2nd position in the Math Olympiad. The winners alongside their teachers were appreciated in the morning assembly for their efforts and committed wits.
Similarly, students were encouraged to participate in other events and tournaments for increased exposure and skill acquisition. Students from Khatoon-e-Pakistan participated in a speech competition held at District East where they secured 1st and 2nd positions under different categories. Anoosha from Grade 8 secured 1st position, Mafia from Grade 7 secured 1st position, Areesha from class 9 achieved 2nd position, and Aroosha from class 6 secured 1st position.
A team from Zindagi Trust’s school also participated in the Open Chess Category for Women at the Punjab Minds Sports Master Open Rapid Championship in March’22 held in Lahore, Pakistan. Amongst 100 women participating from all over Pakistan , Mehek acquired 7th position, Hira, 15th, and Almira secured 21st position.
Since Zindagi Trust believes in strengthening its programs, it is actively working towards capacity building of the mind sports program. Through monitoring and evaluation surveys and observations, we have noticed how Mind Sports helps students develop self-confidence and the ability to tackle challenges in all spheres: in classrooms, art lessons, sports fields, exam halls, and beyond. For this purpose, Zindagi Trust has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan for capacity building of the Mind Sports program at the schools of Zindagi Trust.
Zindagi Trust believes education should be accessible to all children, regardless of their circumstances and cognitive ability. In April, we partnered with Autism Spectrum Disorder Welfare Trust (ASDWT) for an awareness session on Autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. 20 of our ECE teachers enjoyed the session at SMB Fatima Jinnah on 9 April and were eager to learn more and understand how to better help our students with learning disabilities.
For our younger students, we arranged a fun trip to the Karachi Zoo where students actively participated by singing rhymes and enjoying the view of different animals.
The program officers for special programs and advocacy conducted an informal session with the students of grade 10 to teach them about protecting themselves online. There was a healthy discussion on the harms on the internet for children, privacy settings on social media, reporting mechansims, and helpline and laws in Pakistan for digital safety.
The Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) team organized a wonderful opportunity for our students’ parents to learn more about the LSBE program. This event, called the LSBE Gallery Walk, was hosted at Khatoon-e-Pakistan School and parents turned up in numbers to watch their children present different themes within LSBE. Some of the themes covered were protection from child abuse, urgency to dismantle gender roles, protection from threatening medical diseases, and managing your personal hygiene. Parents walked towards multiple booths where students had prepared a presentation on an LSBE topic and students answered their questions. At the end of the event, feedback was collected from the parents to measure the success of the gallery walk.
The Zindagi Trust creative team is working on writing and publishing an LSBE book for primary schoolers. The theme of the book is bullying and we hope to teach students about how harmful bullying can be for students who experience it. It also teaches them responsibility and to treat each other with compassion.
In the month of April, our programs team participated in a consultation on internet governance. The general discussion included topics of media regulation, lack of internet access, internet inclusivity, lack of legislation and implementation of digital laws, the relationship between internet and gender-based violence, online education during COVID pandemic, and possible solutions including incentivization and state involvement.The program officers presented how students interact with the digital world and the problems they face in that process. Some of the few include, accessibility issues, language barriers, cultural shame associated with consumption of media, further problems inquired during online learning in the COVID-19 pandemic by the organization at large and the students personally. Further issues that branch out from the topic such as privacy issues during internet navigation were also discussed which Zindagi Trust plans to combat through the digital safety awareness sessions in partnership with TikTok.
The partnership between TikTok and Zindagi Trust is an ongoing campaign which aims to bring awareness about digital safety, and equip students, parents, and teachers with the tools to be safe online and be responsible digital citizens.
After the exam season, students returned to campus for a well-deserved fun summer camp. The summer camp, returning to school after the COVID-19 pandemic, is currently ongoing at both of our schools for students of grades 5 - 8. Students have a program for two weeks where they attend classes for arts and craft, cooking, acting, and photography and learn about emotional regulation, mental wellbeing, and creative expression.
Zindagi Trust has been making continuous efforts to transform public schools of Pakistan despite the worsening COVID-19 situation and other setbacks along the way. The mission to bring reform through policy enactments and program interventions has been successful in most aspects yet work is underway for a greater and more impactful holistic change.
In terms of policy legislation, Zindagi Trust had been working on establishing a new annual teacher performance evaluation report designed specifically for government teachers. The new report gives particular consideration to performance evaluation metrics and factors directly linked to teaching and content mastery, as opposed to the previous generic Annual Confidential Report that was applicable to grade 9-16 civil servants across all occupations in Pakistan. This evaluation measure gained appreciation by many including Saaed Ghani - the former education minister of Sindh and marked a proud moment for Zindagi Trust when it was approved by the Sindh Government’s School Education and Literacy department on June 2nd 2021.
Furthermore, to ensure academic excellence, the School Management team alongside the Professional Development team at Zindagi Trust conducted an Induction training session before the beginning of the new academic year in September 2021. It sharpened teachers’ pedagogical skills, learned more about classroom management, and helped develop effective teaching plans for multiple subjects, including Life Skills Based Education (LSBE). Alongside these training sessions, follow-ups have been made through internal classroom observations both formal and informal during both academic terms of the year, after which the teachers are provided with constructive feedback. The diligence and hard work of the teachers and the students is reflected in the annual results each year. Not only did all of the students from both schools clear the board exams held in 2021 with shining colours, Marium, a 9th grader from Khatoon-e-Pakistan (KPS) secured a 95%, making her the highest achiever in her entire batch.
Soon after the academic year kicked off, Zindagi Trust’s flagship school SMB Fatima Jinnah was declared as the winner of the International School Award (ISA) 2021-2024 by the British Council for its relentless effort in instilling civic responsibility amongst the students and assuring the school curriculum is at par with international standards. SMB Fatima Jinnah’s science teacher, Ms. Erum was recognized for her efforts in integrating international learning in classrooms.
As part of our holistic learning, we encourage volunteers and organisations to host informative and interactive sessions for our students at both our schools. A few enthusiastic students from different educational institutes in Karachi, including Bahria University, Iqra University, and Nixor College organized multiple learning sessions, ranging from topics such as sexual harassment, general hygiene, gender equality, to even financial literacy. These workshops greatly helped our young students to thoroughly understand sensitive and often taboo topics and empowered them in the process. Similarly, Santex Products, a well-established health and wellness company, hosted an awareness session on menstrual hygiene in November 2021 where students learned about the onset of menstruation and debunked some of the problematic myths associated with it.
Vaccination drives are being conducted on both campuses to protect the students against the virulent COVID-19 and its uprising variants. Students aged 12 and above are being administered the Pfizer vaccine to minimise any further losses in learning due to the uncertain circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Our teachers, admin, and the rest of the team at Zindagi Trust are working persistently to bridge the gap and bring school life to its full potential once again.
A joyous occasion for Zindagi Trust, for the last 10 years, has been conducting summer camps for our students. With exciting workshops and student clubs on art, storytelling, music, yoga and much more, the sight of excited students running around in the summer at the campus breathes life into our vision of transforming government schools. In 2021, due to COVID 19, school exams went on until late June, and the next session commenced in August. Subsequently we decided to give our students one action packed, ‘Day of Summer’ in July.
We started our day with Art activities designed by the Head of our Art department, followed by a volunteer led workshop on Environmental Sustainability. Students had created some wonderful art, been introduced to figures like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, and brainstormed how they could make their everyday activities climate conscious. To take a break, our wonderful music department put on a small performance which left the entire room singing along to some classic Pakistani pop hits.
After a refreshing lunch of pizza, juice and ice-cream, the students attended another volunteer led workshop on photography. While students were engrossed in taking pictures in different orientations, our team welcomed a member of a local Pakistani band, ‘Kashmir’. The artist talked to students about his journey as a student and as a musician, encouraging them to understand the value of schools in developing their individual passions. As the day moved towards its end, we bade farewell to the students, and began preparing to welcome them back in August.
Our schools opened up their gates on the 8th of August, with half of the student population streaming in to catch up with their friends. Unfortunately, the province of Sindh began to witness an exponential increase in covid cases at this time. This resulted in education institutions shutting down yet again until September. Sporadic breaks in the flow of an education journey has proven to incur learning losses, and that is a reality that every government school in Pakistan has to contend with now.
Transforming government schools is incomplete without having empathy for students, and acknowledging the effects of this pandemic. Subsequently our mitigation strategy began with starting induction trainings for our teachers, to help familiarize them with the structure of professional development and support that Zindagi Trust would offer them throughout the course of the year. This is also highlighted a new scheme of studies for this academic year, which would account for learning losses and shape learning journeys accordingly.
Since September, covid cases have subsided considerably, and we have been able to bring back more student developmental activities, such as sports and music. In addition, our external workshops for students have also been able to resume, with talks arranged by various volunteers and organizations. These include a talk on Alzheimer's awareness, a career counseling workshop on vocational training. The way forward has changed, but the vision of transforming government schools for students across Pakistan still holds true.
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