Pakistan: Building back a better education system in the quake zone

Islamabad- April 23th, 2007: The educational interventions in the earthquake affected areas cover wide spectrum of recovery activities such as support to primary, secondary and tertiary education, non-formal, technical and vocational education, staff and systems development, monitoring, and evaluation and education research. The aim is for the holistic reactivation of the education system comprising both 'hard' and 'soft' components across all levels.

The Country Director UNESCO, Jorge Sequeira said, "The significance of schooling cannot be over emphasized as it is an important step towards complete rehabilitation and recovery. In one such initiative, 350,000 children were re-enrolled and approximately 13,000 including vulnerable and displaced children attended school for the first time." This was implemented through UNICEF's ' Welcome to School' campaign.

Similarly, for the resumption of basic education services to poor and vulnerable primary school age populations, over 6,000 temporary schools have been made functional with basic physical infrastructure(20 transitional shelters & 17426 tents), learning materials and teachers with the support of UNICEF. Organizations that are supporting transitional shelters for schools in selected districts include UNICEF, UNESCO, Diakonie Emergency Aid, Save the Children and Première Urgence.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Jan Vandemoortele viewing the educational interventions remarked, "The provision of infrastructure is critical to rebuild the devastated education system, equally important is to ensure that students get quality education and much needed psycho-social support." Towards this end, 12,000 government teachers in NWFP and AJK* have been trained in disaster preparedness and response, psychosocial support and participatory learning with the support of UNESCO and UNICEF.

Commenting on these trainings a participant from the affected area stated, "The trainings have addressed the professional and psychological needs of teachers in the affected areas. The sessions on earthquake preparedness, psychological support, multi grade teaching and child protection have been particularly useful. The religious contextualization of the training materials have enabled us to view the calamity philosophically and enabled us to rise again".

Another important component of the educational response is the development of the institutional and human resource capacity of district level education government personnel to revitalize the collapsed education system. Recognizing this need a senior manager commented, "Senior managers are responsible for planning and have to assume a leadership role, develop a way of thinking and adopt techniques that can support this role. Through training we have learnt techniques and concepts that have been instrumental in us assuming this leadership role. But the road to reconstruction is long and our capacity to meet this challenge needs to be constantly developed and reinforced."

UNESCO has trained 160 senior / district educational managers in project planning. Further trainings in managing recovery and reconstruction, monitoring and evaluation and financial management are also underway. UNICEF has supplied IT equipment, vehicles and motor bikes, office furniture, etc. and human resources in addition to the capacity building of education department officials in planning, monitoring and mentoring. UNICEF is also supporting the development of Education Management Information Systems and Human Resource Management Systems in the affected areas.

90 Middle-level managers (head teachers, headmasters/mistresses and assistants and education officers) are trained who are the lynch-pin between senior managers and system level where education policy is formed, and the school level where the policy has to be implemented and monitored. Therefore, in the coming months 1,700 middle managers are targeted for training that aims at increasing their school management skills and capacities as teacher supervisors.

The rebuilding process requires the active engagement of local communities, especially in decision making regarding schools. The Parent-Teacher Associations and School Management Committees (SMCs) are thus being trained and supported with basic equipment or minimum financial support by organisations including BEFARE, Catholic Relief services, Aga Khan Development network, UNICEF and Save the Children. Some organisations, such as Premiere Urgence, engage the SMCs directly in the preparation and monitoring of school reconstruction. Save the Children facilitate health groups for students, teachers and SMCs as part of their school health and de-worming programme.

Now relief and recovery phase is almost over and reconstruction phase has started. Out of 1574 schools planned to be reconstructed this year, 31 have been completed, 148 are under construction, work awarded for 59 schools and 200 are in the process of tendering.

Observing the transition from recovery to long-term development and reconstruction, General Nadeem, Deputy Chairman Earthquake Rehabilitation & Reconstruction Authority (ERRA) said, "Greater coordination between key stakeholders and the formation of joint strategies and training plans further strengthens the rebuilding process. Needs and issues emerge which are effectively and comprehensively addressed reflecting the strong commitment to build back a better education system."

Footnote:* (Pakistan Administered Kashmir is United Nations official reference)

For further information and media assistance, please contact,

Raabya Amjad, Public Information Officer, Pakistan
UN - Office of the Resident Coordinator, Sector F-7/2, Street 17, House 12, Islamabad;
Fax: +92(0) 51 2655014; Tel: + 92(0) 51 8255712; Mobile: +92 (0)301 8542442