August 12, 2003

PAKISTAN: Early childhood education to be boosted in the south

The project will have a particular focus on young girls

ISLAMABAD , 12 Aug 2003 (IRIN) - A new programme to improve childhood development and education in Pakistanís poverty stricken provinces of Balochistan and Sindh in the south of the country will be implemented by the Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan (AKFP) and USAID.

This is the first time these communities are to benefit from such a programme, which resulted from identifying weaknesses in policies on early childhood education. "AKFP is moving early childhood education [ECE] and early childhood development [ECD] back into the communities and forward," Randy Hatfield, AKFPís education programme manager, told IRIN from the southern city of Karachi on Monday.

The project, entitled "Releasing Confidence and Creativity (RCC): An Early Childhood Development Programme", will be launched in 100 communities, targeting children up to the age of eight with a particular focus on girls in rural areas. "The main elements are advocacy, teacher training, awareness of childhood education and how communities can support readiness for school," he said.

In order to assess the progress of the project, a round-table meeting was organised to convene on 11-12 August in Karachi. The meeting is also to engage in a policy review of ECD. "We have identified a gap that needs to be filled with a national policy," he explained. Ideas for the formulation of a national ECD and ECE policy were also on the agenda. The US $1.3-million project will run until March 2004.

All 100 projects are being implemented in collaboration with the Health and Nutrition Development Society, Teachers Resource Centre, Aga Khan Education Service Pakistan, Aga Khan University-Human Development Programme, Sindh Education Foundation, Society for Community Support for Primary Education and the education departments of Balochistan and Sindh.

"The government has been very cooperative and we are working well together," Hatfield noted.

The AKFP, founded in 1969, is a member of the Aga Khan Development Network and works with a host of partner agencies, NGOs and public and private sector agencies.