ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — As countries around the world have struggled to keep citizens safe during this global pandemic, students have had no choice but to adapt to sudden change. Many governments have issued nationwide school closures or localized temporary suspensions. Only a handful of countries such as New Zealand, Greenland, Belarus and Papa New Guinea remained entirely open. Some students have been able to utilize online resources or homeschooling to continue their education; however, this is not the case for everyone. Altogether school closures had impacted more than one billion students around the globe by the end of May. It left those students in unstable educational systems, like in Pakistan, with even fewer opportunities. That is why UNICEF has partnered with the Balochistan Secondary Education Department and various community members to start the “Mera Ghar, Mera School” initiative, also known as the My Home, My School initiative. This initiative is improving education in Pakistan.
Education in Pakistan
Pakistan has one of the largest youth population’s in the world. At least 64% of the country’s total population is age 30 or younger. However, the country is also second in the world when it comes to young people not enrolled in school. There were 22.7 million children and teenagers not attending school in 2017. The majority of those young people are women and girls. Among the ninth graders in the country, only 13% are young women. Because schools tend to be far away, many young girls are unwilling to make the trip for fear of being attacked or sexually assaulted.
Additionally, many families are unable to afford an education. And with the government closing schools to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, many of those students are falling even further behind. Rural areas have little to no internet access, yet 65% of the population lives there. This means that many young people do not have online alternatives for their schooling.
My Home, My School
Mera Ghar, Mera School means My Home, My School in Urdu. Urdu is the official language of Pakistan with 70 million people speaking it. My Home, My School is an initiative made of students, parents, teachers and community members that share educational resources through WhatsApp groups to help students continue their education at home. The My Home, My School initiative utilizes 375 WhatsApp groups to provide parents and volunteers with advice on homeschooling, materials on maintaining good hygiene during the pandemic and tips on keeping students active. The educational articles and videos target students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
The initiative is based out of Balochistan, a rural province in Pakistan. It is the largest and poorest province in the country. At least 52% of children in poverty in the region are not enrolled in school. In fact, the literacy rate was 38% for men and only 13% for women. Nearly 14,000 members use these virtual groups to improve their children’s at-home education experience. And the initiative has empowered community members to start teaching in 738 homes. That means at least 738 families are able to continue their education in Pakistan.
Initiatives like My Home, My School give hope to communities in this uncertain time by providing parents and students with support to continue their education in Pakistan. Hopefully, initiatives like this will continue long after COVID-19 is gone.
– Tiara Wilson