By Sohail Chaudhry
ISLAMABAD: Despite social and religious constraints, people of the Northern Areas have been demanding an extension of the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) literacy programme.
The NCHD is working under a tripartite partnership with the Aga Khan Education Services-Pakistan (AKESP) and Aga Khan Rural Support Pakistan (AKRSP) in the Northern Areas to achieve Education For All (EFA) goals at the district level aimed at 50 percent increase in the national literacy rate.
The NCHD is providing supervisory and monitoring support to the AKESP in adult literacy centres (ALCs) and post literacy centres (PLCs).
AKRSP Community Mobiliser Manager Attaullah Baig told reporters during their recent visit to the Northern Areas that the institution had been focusing on areas with low literacy rates by providing learning and teaching material to students and teachers.
“Previously, people of these areas were divided according to their religious sects and had separate education systems, but we succeeded in abolishing these systems and designed one practical syllabus for all,” he said.
NCHD Literacy Programme Northern Areas Director Munir Khan said that during the first partnership between the NCHD and AKRSP in 2005-6, 346 centres were established, adding that 7,691 students were initially enrolled of which 6,103 had graduated.
Khan said that the partnership convinced the NCHD on starting tripartite partnership with the AKESP and AKRSP in 2007-08. He said the NCHD had established 461 literacy centres enrolling 10,871 learners of which 7,837 had graduated. He further said that the NCHD has established 36 post literacy centres in which 852 learners had been enrolled who are expected to graduate in October 2008.
“The NCHD is working in the Northern Areas, including Skardu, Ghanche, Gilgit, Astor, Ghizer and Diamir,” he added.
He said it was the first programme aimed at educating mothers to benefit their children.
The NCHD has designed a five-month programme after which a graduate is able to write 7-10 sentences about his immediate environment, add, subtract and divide a three-digit figure and develop knowledge about techniques of tolerance and emotional control.
Talking to the visiting journalists, students of these centres said the ALC and PLC should continue as it has helped them read and write and run their businesses.
Hazrat Noor, 40, at an ALC located in Jalal Abad, Gilgit, said that previously she was not aware of the importance of different documents but after taking the classes, this changed.
“Once I lit fire by burning a utility bill to cook food as I could not read the manuscript before joining the centre,” she said, adding that now she is educated enough not to repeat such mistakes.
Ramazan Ali, 35, a student said that she was previously unable to teach her children, adding, “Now I can help my children with their homework.”
Another student, Fiza, said the government should launch skill-oriented programmes to help preserve locally produced fruits that rot due to a lack of awareness of ways to preserve them.
Community mobiliser Saeed Akbar said 10 centres had been closed down in Skardu, though residents are demanding the project to continue. He said the project proved effective in enhancing the literacy rate in the Northern Areas, adding that the government should also initiate such projects.