Hope Amidst Hardship

Their dreams are not just personal; they are tied to their parents’ aspirations, turning education into a shared family goal.
Uqba and Saima’s story is a poignant narrative of resilience, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of education amidst adversity. Living in the village of Balay Shah, these siblings, aged 15 and 14, are confronted with challenges that would daunt even the strongest spirits.
Their father, a laborer, passed away four years ago due to an abdominal disease. Despite seeking treatment at the government hospital in Larkana, he could not survive, leaving behind a family grappling with poverty. The responsibility of providing for the family fell on their mother, Fehmida, who sustains them by engaging in sewing and stitching for the villagers. The meager income is supplemented by the sale of papar, a kind of wafer, made by their mother and sold by their 10-year-old brother, Furqan, earning approximately PKR 200 per day.
With no external support, Uqba and Saima, along with their siblings, actively contribute to running the household. From gathering wood for cooking to assisting their mother in sewing and stitching, each member of the family plays a crucial role. In the face of adversity, their collective efforts become a testament to their unity and determination.
Their living conditions took a severe hit during the rains and floods of 2022. Forced to abandon their mud house due to the fear of collapse, they sought refuge at the station, contending with waist-high water in the village. The destruction of their house left them seeking monetary help from the village elders, who, unfortunately, were unable to assist. The family now resides in a tent, a humble dwelling provided by compassionate individuals rendering aid in the area. Despite the challenging circumstances, the parents harbored a strong belief in the power of education. Illiterate themselves, they aspired for a different future for their children, recognizing education as a pathway to a better life, mutual care, and promising employment opportunities. All five sisters and their brother, ranging from the eldest Uqba to the youngest at 5 years old, share a love for studying.
Uqba and Saima attend the Government High School in Balay Shah, having enrolled after completing grade 5 in another school. Their favorite subjects, Physics for Saima and English and Biology for Uqba, reflect their academic aspirations. The teachers at their school are a source of inspiration, with Uqba looking up to Sir Muhammad Khan, the English teacher. The school, characterized by its cleanliness and supportive atmosphere, offers a space for both academic and extracurricular activities.

Saima dreams of becoming a doctor, driven by the absence of medical assistance for her father in the village. Uqba, too, aspires to join the medical profession or become a teacher. Their dreams are not just personal; they are tied to their parents’ aspirations, turning education into a shared family goal.
Yet, amidst the pursuit of education, the harsh realities of winter accentuate their vulnerability. The lack of warm clothes poses a challenge, compelling them to improvise for their younger siblings and make do with mere dupattas for themselves. Lighting a fire using cattle dung is a luxury they cannot afford for long, as even this resource comes at a cost.
Uqba’s perspective on the importance of having a house, even more crucial than education, highlights the pressing need for basic necessities. The siblings navigate a delicate balance between dreams of a better future through education and the immediate requirements of shelter and warmth.

Uqba and Saima’s story underscores the resilience that education can instill even in the face of adversity. Their journey is a testament to the transformative power of learning, offering a glimmer of hope for a brighter tomorrow despite the challenges they endure today.

Public-Private Partnership for Education

School Education and Literacy Department (SELD), Government of Sindh (GoS) joined hands with the USAID to launch the Sindh Basic Education Program (SBEP) in ten districts of Sindh province, i.e., Dadu, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Khairpur, Kamber-Shahdadkot, Karachi West, Karachi Malir, Karachi South, Larkana, and Sukkur.  USAID has allocated resources to constructing 106 state-of-the-art buildings for the schools where existing infrastructure had completely collapsed due to floods.

The Education Management Organization (EMO) Reforms is a pilot project that engages the private sector under public public-private partnerships model. This arrangement is supported by relevant laws of the Public Private Partnership Act 2010 (PPP Act) and Sindh Public Procurement Rules, 2010 (SPPR).

Under the EMO reforms, the management and operations of these 106 Sindh Basic Education Program (SBEP) newly constructed public schools are being outsourced for a period of 10 years to well-reputed Education Management Organizations (EMOs) that is NGO.

HANDS signed its first contract in Request for Proposal (RFP #3) as Operator in 2017 and the second contract in RFP #5 in 2020. The Govt. of Sindh retains ownership of the school’s land and buildings but contracts out the school’s management to the private sector and transfers the approved budget through performance base reimbursement.

HANDS manages seven EMO school projects in five districts of Sindh i.e., Sukkur, Khairpur, Dadu, Karachi and Larkana. There are a total of 20 campuses (construction) schools (all high schools) along with 40 group feeder schools (Primary). Later, these schools were solarized (420 KW) to avoid electricity interruptions. There are a total of 19149 students, 662 Teachers and 197 Support Staff. All schools are accessible for students with disabilities.

The education reform program runs around the following seven KPIs, which are the backbone of this project. This includes a School Management Plan, Improved Staff Availability and Attendance, Improved Students’ Enrollment, Attendance and Retention, Lesson Planning and Students’ Assessment System, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) of staff, School Repair and Maintenance and Improved Community Engagement and Improved Health and Hygiene practices, and sporting activities

The baseline survey presents 791 students enrolled in these schools, after five years the enrolment has reached 1635 students. The baseline reports that only 147 girls were enrolled in these schools, but this figure has now reached 486, which means a 230% increase in enrollment in five years. HANDS introduces innovative strategies to grab the attention of parents and students. The summer and winter camps proved to be fantastic experiences for children packed with fun and competitive drills of different games along with daily snacks. The competitive academic and art competitions during national and international days enhanced their interest and groomed them to combat future challenges. Exposure visits, Sports Day, project displays, Celebrating Special/National Days, School Community Open-house, Sports Day, etc. are the activities that not only enhance the enrolment but play a pivoting role in retaining the students, especially girls.

During 2018 and 2023 we studied the pattern of retaining and dropping out of students. We learned that 89% of enrolled girls who started their education journey with us in 2018 continued their education in the same schools till 2023 compared to 83% of enrolled boys who continued their education in the primary section.

HANDS team with different innovative strategies enhances the interest of the government teachers. The attendance of government teachers has improved a lot after the intervention. During baseline, the attendance of government teachers was reported to be merely 71% and now has reached 90%.

The capacity-building and motivation of teachers were reflected in the students’ results. In the subsequent years (2019 – 2023) almost 100% of students passed their annual exams. In the board exam. In the years (2019-23) almost 100% of students passed their IX and X board exams with high color, i.e., grades A-1 & A. Thus; served the three core areas of the education reform, i.e., Improved Quality of Education, Capacity Building of Teaching Staff, Improved School Governance and Management

We track the pass-out students and are pleased to know that 51 of the passed students are pursuing higher education in different universities and colleges. While 29 students are serving different organizations in suitable positions.

The EMOs reform is expected to improve public sector schools by innovating and modernizing the education system; reduce inadequacies and address management gaps in public education; deliver better quality education; and encourage greater private sector investment in education, especially in the province’s rural and less developed areas.