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Church-trust gives school dropouts another chance at education

An in-house program helps rural children reenter mainstream schools

Church-trust gives school dropouts another chance at education
The non-formal education center in Mannoo Abad reporter, Mannoo Abad

February 4, 2011

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Fifteen-year-old Chand Arif owes his education to a Catholic center after he dropped out of school. Going to school, he said, was useless as he hardly got much out of it. “The teacher came late for classes and taught us carelessly and although there was no tuition fee and the books were provided free of cost, I was unable to comprehend the lessons,” Arif said. He then quit school and started working in a leather factory with his father. While working he came in contact with a Church-run non-formal education center and he coaxed into continuing his education. Arif is now one of 350 students who have been given an educational opportunity to study in nine non-formal centers being run by the Urban Mobilization for Education and Environment Development Trust. The trust founded in 1997 by Father Joseph Louis in Lahore archdiocese has since managed to educate and relocate hundreds of dropouts to proper government-run schools. The trust had to put its work on hold temporarily after overseas funding dried up in 2009. “The centers had become very popular and local people demanded we continue,” said Father Louis. He said people started contributing toward fees for the teachers’ salary and also facilitated classes in their homes, church compounds or community halls. Later on, the trust started expanding their services away from Lahore and into the neighboring villages such as Mannoo Abad, where Arif hails from, said Venus Hameed, the trust’s program coordinator. But moving into the villages had its own set of problems. Students’ attendance becomes irregular during the harvest season as they help their parents, most of who are poor peasants, she said. The education centers follow a special curriculum which equips the student, aged between seven to 12 years, with the knowledge of a fifth grader. They do this with an in-house developed program that spans three years or less depending on the students’ aptitude. The students pay 50 rupees (about US$1) monthly while the teachers receive 1,000 rupees as a monthly salary. About 60 percent of the students are Muslims. Although he is the eldest in grade five, Arif said he is happy to continue with his schooling. After finishing his schooling Arir said he wants to pursue further studies and become a teacher. The trust also offers an adult literacy program, health and hygiene education, vocational skills, self-development courses and operates a micro-finance loan scheme. However, the main focus is the education of children. Only 63 percent of Pakistani children finish primary school education. Furthermore, 68 percent of Pakistani boys and 72 percent of Pakistani girls reach grade five. Only 50 percent of the population is literate. According to the National Commission for Human Development said that over 50 million Pakistanis could not read or write a single word at the age of 10 years. Related reports Pakistani priest helps poor with loan scheme Catholic businessmen give students a leg up PA13150.1639
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