07 May 2003 Wednesday
04 Rabi-ul-Awwal 1424
By Our Reporter

EC, AKFP sign accord on women education uplift

ISLAMABAD, May 6: The European Commission will provide Euro 20 million (equivalent to Rs1.28 billion) to the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) as grant for implementation of its programme to increase women's access to education in the Northern Areas and Chitral.

A contract to this effect was signed between the ambassador and head of the European Commission delegation in Pakistan, Ilkka Uusitalo, and AKF Chairman Kamal Chinoy at the education ministry on Tuesday. Minister for Education Zobaida Jalal was also present.

Constituting second phase of the AKF's Northern Pakistan Education Project, the programme envisages to provide primary, middle and higher education to 90,000 students, increasing by 40 per cent the access to education for 1.23 million people of the area, Mr Chinoy said.

Another significant feature of the programme is to train nearly 3,025 head teachers and teachers in the schools of the government, NGOs, community and the AKF to ensure quality education.

The EC envoy said the programme would respond to the increasing demand for education for girls and address some of the problems raised in the stakeholder analyses through feedback, monitoring and evaluation of the earlier programmes in the area.

The project was part of the EC's efforts to make a sustainable contribution to the education sector in Pakistan and would particularly target those communities, which have benefited the least from economic growth, by granting them access to an acceptable standard of education.

The EU grant commitments to Pakistan would now reach a new total of over Euro 178.89 million.

The education minister requested the AKF to support the 500 community schools in Northern Areas which were established with funds received from the World Bank. These schools might face closure due to lack of funds in a short period of time, she remarked.

She said in order to increase people's access to education, the government had adopted the policy of public-private partnership under which private sector was catering to 40 per cent of the educational needs. A newsman pointed out that people's access to education had been reduced over the years because of the policy. Most of the private sector institutions are being run on a commercial basis in a country where 40 per cent of the people, in terms of basic needs, had been pushed below the poverty line.

The only answer she could give to the criticizm was that the government was going to establish a regulatory mechanism for private schools. The government of Sindh, she added, had already initiated the requisite preparations in this regard while other provinces would follow suit.