It is not uncommon to hear of girls dropping out of school at an early age, particularly in the remote areas of Pakistan. In an attempt to increase retention rates for these girls, the Sindh Radiant Organization (SRO) in collaboration with Ilm Ideas has initiated a project that allows girls to resume their education by setting up 18 Community Coaching Centers in rural villages of Sindh. An estimated 500 girls between the ages of 11-17 have been registered with nearby government schools and are now on their way to completing their secondary education.
Shahida is the mother of a nine month old boy, and she is determined to get an education so she can become a banker. Against all odds, she walks to school every day, her school bag in one hand and her son in the other. She is excited and relieved to continue with her education after it was brought to a sudden halt when she was ten years old.
Upon completing Grade 5, Shahida could not study further as there were no middle schools in her village. She was devastated that she could no longer go to school, be with friends and, above all, learn new things. However, life continued and a few years later, she was married and had a son. Responsibilities of being a mother reduced her chances of going back to school and Shahida started losing hope.
Then, the Ilm Ideas Community Coaching Centers (CCCs) for out-of-school girls were set up in her locality. These provided girls the opportunity to bridge the gap between primary and secondary grades, enabling them to achieve secondary school certificates recognized by the Government of Pakistan. When Shahida decided to enroll she faced strong opposition not only from her parents and in-laws, but several members of her community.
“I had responsibilities, they reminded me. I was too old to go back to school, they jeered.”
But Shahida stood her ground. She visited the SRO social mobilize who provided information regarding flexible coaching hours and guided Shahida about managing her domestic responsibilities and school schedule. Shahida started convincing other peers to join the CCCs and eventually formed a group of 4 other girls who would join with her. Jointly, they convinced their families that they would help each other look after their children at school
Shahida is a regular student at the Ilm Ideas Community Coaching Center, and is now enrolled in Grade 7.
“I will finish my BA and become a banker, so my children can go to good schools, especially my daughters!” says a beaming Shahida.