A Book Bus, Sports Gear, and School Supplies for Kids in Pakistan
For our Pakistan team, education has been the top priority for years. With one of the highest populations of out-of-school children in the world, Pakistan’s young people need more avenues to see and unleash their potential.
Our team has been focused on removing the many barriers to education, like access to schools and teachers, so families are better able to send their children to school. We’ve enrolled more than 950,000 kids into the formal education system, toward our goal of one million kids in school. Homeschooling and village-centered schools offer more flexible alternatives to the often unaffordable traditional routes, so over the years we’ve worked on ways to get kids learning, no matter the format.
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As COVID-19 became a threat to both the health of Pakistan’s families and to their very livelihood. the team saw a need to rethink their approach. But the creativity and adaptive qualities of our teams made adopting a new model for education a natural one; we were already designing new methods to reach more kids.
Everyone stepped up to the challenge to be a part of the country-wide response to COVID-19. Thus, despite the uncertainty surrounding us, breakthroughs like Radio Muallim were born, bringing school lessons via radio waves to kids throughout the country. And today, the breakthroughs continue. We’re keeping education moving by bringing the things kids need to cultivate a love of learning and activity—like books, sports gear, and school room essentials—straight to them.
A Bus Filled with Books
As countrywide educational closures continue amidst the second wave of COVID-19 in Pakistan, it’s vital that kids still have the tools for learning at their disposal. That’s why Alight Pakistan, in collaboration with the Alif Laila Book Bus Society, has come up with a solution – bringing books to kids.
Our Mobile Library Van provides educational opportunities for kids everywhere, even where non-formal schools are not yet established. Our hope is that by providing children with a variety of books at their fingertips, they’ll obtain a passion for reading and become more engaged in their studies. From sunrise to sunset the Mobile Library Van travels across the region, even in the rough mountainous terrains of Gilgit-Balistan, reaching remote villages to deliver books.
The Van has genres available for all ages — poetry, history, fiction and more — so that young people can explore and discover what they love. Kids can widen their worlds, honing their creative and critical thinking abilities, especially during this time of school closures.
In a time when it’s all too tempting to go down the rabbit hole of computers, tablets, and cell phones, these newly available books are refreshing for kids — and parents. Children may borrow books of their choice, read them and then return them after a while so the next child may explore what’s on the pages.
Busy Bodies for Healthy Minds
Staying active is so important for young people – it keeps their spirits up and helps them keep focused on their studies. But when resources are limited, sports are often the first to be removed from an organization or system.
To help keep kids moving, Alight (with the generous contribution of staff members, too!) provided 12 sports kits to schools on the outskirts of Islamabad. These kits contained two cricket bats, one set of cricket stumps, two skipping ropes, six tennis balls, three badminton rackets, six shuttlecocks, two footballs, and two ludo boards. As one of the most popular sports in the country, these kits are sure to be a hit!
Sports are an inexhaustible source of inspiration and happiness for kids. Sports cultivate highly valued skills like teamwork, they encourage friendships, and they help children discover confidence and talents that may have previously been hidden. And during this time of uncertainty, it is sure to help keep spirits up – and bodies moving.
The Building Blocks of Education
Sometimes, you have to go back to the basics. Despite the threat of closures and the second wave of the pandemic, there are still schools that are open and running. And none of them need our support more than non-formal primary education schools.
These schools—offered to kids who, for one reason or another, have been forced to drop out of the formal system—offer an alternative pathway toward education, one that often caters to kids and families unique needs. The Government of Pakistan is running the nationwide network of non-formal primary education schools and has managed to keep them open despite the current challenges.
Team Pakistan wanted to chip in. To ensure that these kids have all the materials they need to fuel learning, we provided 4,919 non-formal schools with school supplies across all four provinces of Pakistan. These supplies make up the building blocks of teaching and learning, including blackboards, chairs, water-coolers (for snacks and lunches!), mats, attendance registers, and stationary.
Most children who attend these schools and literacy centers are from rural areas, where many families can’t afford required purchases in traditional school settings – like uniforms, shoes, and books. These alternative schools offer education without those restrictions, and within multiple grade-levels, with truly talented teachers adopting their coursework to fit with the varying students’ abilities and skill sets.
These opportunities are especially important for girls, who otherwise would have gone without access to education due to lack of funds or other social taboos. “These non-formal schools extend free and flexible learning opportunities,” says Dr. Tariq Cheema, Country Representative for Alight Pakistan. “Providing school supplies and other missing items will help the children get the quality education they deserve.”