Community Based Interventions- Protecting the Right to Learn

Source:  Pakistan Herald Published in Education on Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pakistan has suffered from the worst attacks on education than any country in the world.

With over 1000 schools destroyed in KPK province, 105 attacks on schools worldwide between 2011 and 2012 and more than 130 children brutally massacred in Army Public School Peshawar attack, there has been a dire need  to initiate and immediate scaled-up response to protect, schools, students and school personnel from future attacks. The situation is exacerbated by the education crises with a consistently increasing number of out of school children. At present around 13.7 million girls and 11.4 million boys have been deprived of their basic right to education in our country.  For the purpose of protecting the right of every child to learn, it is necessary to examine the worldwide prominent practices of schools.

If the Global Best Practices for Schools are analyzed, community-based interventions are the most cost effective measure for the protection of schools, students and school personals. They play an active role in conflict resolution as they possess the specialized knowledge of the particular school and area. These committees have been successful in Somalia as they encouraged elders and religious leaders to participate in the school's decision making process and have reduce the negative influence of Al-Shahab. Similarly in Pakistan School Management Committees and Parent Teacher Council that incorporated various community participants were successful in continuation of education post the 2005 earthquake. Community watches, teacher student parent defense units, religious leader engagement and community driven negotiations will unite people from diverse groups to address the problem of school insecurity.  Enrollment and access to education.  

Organized community watches and teacher-student-parent defense units: can be effective mechanisms to open lines of communication and prevent or immediately report any suspicious activity. This type of community watch system may help stop attacks on education infrastructure or attacks on school-bound transit. In Zimbabwe, parents and teachers formed a unified front, freely sharing information that helped remove militia camps from schools. Similarly in Pakistan, there is a dire need to unite the community to tackle the problem of radicalization through community ownership.

Community-driven negotiations. In some communities, collaboration among diverse political and ethnic groups in widely publicized mass meetings have led to the development of safe school zones based upon an agreed code of conduct between parties.  In Nepal and the Philippines, the writing and signing of codes of conduct defined what was and was not allowed on school grounds in order to minimize violence, school closures and the politicization of schooling. In general the signatory parties kept their commitments and these efforts helped communities to keep schools open, improving protection as well as school governance. The community driven negotiations in Pakistan can achieve a similar impact. It can unite the District Education Officers of the locality with the local community leading to breakthrough political resolutions in re-opening closed school, providing missing facilities in schools, enhancing school enrollment and teacher and student retention.

Education is critical to economic development and social welfare of Pakistan. Prioritizing education in such a way has several rationales. For one, investments in education are believed to yield returns in poverty reduction, improved health outcomes, and economic growth. In addition, increased access to education can lead to increased political participation and more equitable sharing of economic and political power. Education for girls is considered particularly critical, as improvements in the infant mortality rate, child nutrition, and school enrollment are closely associated with higher education among mothers. In essence, as education crises persists with over 2.5 million out of school children the only possible solution is to take community ownership to tackle this issue.

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Written by Arshmah Jamil

Author Information: The writer is pursuing MPhil in International Relations from the National...

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