In 1997, many children (particularly girls) in the region were out of school, and indeed there were very few schools around.
One of the EC project's achievements was to build new schools from scratch. Opened in late 2008, the Diamond Jubilee high school in Rahim Abad is one of these. Many of the school's 20 teachers (14 of whom are women) were trained by the project.
The school, which has 14 classrooms and a total of 485 children, was built largely through the voluntary labour of local villagers, who also provided most of the materials that went into its construction. The people of Rahim Abad knew about the value of an education, and were keen to ensure their young people got the chance of one.
Deedar Panah, head of the school, tells the story of a very poor local man who wanted to help: "He came up and said he wished to donate 7,500 Rupees (around £54) to help cover the fees of some poor students."
Being a local himself, Deedar knew the man could not really afford to give so much. However, it then became clear that the 7,500 Rupees were not his alone - two other villagers had chipped in their share, but in line with religious practice wished to remain anonymous. The community felt a sense of responsibility towards the new school - a good sign of the school's sustainability.
As well as building and helping to fund the school, parents are also taking a close interest in their children's work. Karim Khan, a local farmer, has high hopes for his son, and knows that he will need parental support if he is to achieve them. "Though I am a poor man I will do my level best to help him become a doctor," says Karim. "I believe this is the best investment I can make towards his career."
Facts and stats
- The 40 million Euro Northern Pakistan Educational Programme began in 1997 and ended in 2008.
- The main implementing partners included Aga Khan Education Services, Pakistan (AKESP), Aga Khan University - Institute for Educational Development, Professional Development Centre, Northern Areas (PDCN) and Professional Development Centre, Chitral.
- Across the region, 122 "Diamond Jubilee" schools, along with 162 "feeder" schools, have been developed by AKESP.
- In its second phase (2003 to 2008) the NPEP also trained 2,651 teachers, provided 26 schools with support, supported the professional development of 178 teachers, and trained 798 members of parent/school management committees.