Helping promote inclusive education in remote areas of Pakistan
Seven-year-old Shehzad goes to a UNESCO-supported school in Dera Ismail Khan District in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. His community in this remote part of the country has long suffered from natural disasters and internal displacement, amplifying the problems of limited access to basic services that already existed in this region.
Children like Shehzad are the worst affected. He was having a hard time getting to school on rainy days and had problems seeing the blackboard clearly while sitting in his classroom. When Shehzad signalled his difficulties, the UNESCO-project team contacted his parents and guided them to the nearest eye hospital to have his eyesight checked. It was discovered that the young boy had a visual impairment that was holding him back. Within a month, UNESCO helped the school upgrade its infrastructure by building pathways and ramps in order to help Shehzad reach his classroom safely and continue his education. The project team plans to screen all the children in the school for eye diseases.
Shehzad and his school were assisted by a joint UNESCO, UNDP and WHO inter-agency project funded by United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS) between April 2014 and December 2016. The project targeted vulnerable and disadvantaged communities located in conflict- affected areas of Dera Ismail Khan through an inter-sectoral mechanism. The agencies combined efforts to improve the human security situation in the district, reduce the impact of prolonged conflict, foster peace and stability, and promote education, health and livelihoods.
The main pillars of the project were focused on improving access to education, health, and extracurricular activities by helping restore the local infrastructure; promoting peace, conflict resolution, and education for sustainable development and social cohesion.
“I don’t think that these interventions will change Dera Ismail Khan into a metropolis,” said Salman Khan Lodhi, Assistant Commissioner-Dera Ismail Khan. “However, they have played an important role in improving the state of basic infrastructure and enhancing social cohesion, especially among youth in the long run.”
Conflict and violence in northeast Pakistan have affected local infrastructure such as roads, health centres, schools and water supplies. A key target to improving the region’s education was making sure that every child had access to learning. School environments are often barriers to equal participation and opportunities to children with disabilities. Simple modifications to infrastructure can help ensure that all children, regardless of physical ability, are able to go to school and participate in activities. Making gates, classrooms and bathrooms wheelchair accessible and ensuring that teachers are well trained to assist children who might require special attention are essential parts of promoting inclusive education.
As part of this project, five public schools were made accessible for children with disabilities and 53 teachers were trained in inclusive education. Rooftop rainwater harvesting sites were created to help alleviated water scarcity issues at public schools and safety trainings were conducted at all public schools in the project area. Teacher resource kits on heritage education were developed and 40 instructors were trained. 375 girls and women were made literate through non-formal basic education centres. Radio programmes promoting peace, sports and theatre were also organised and supported in the community.
UNESCO promotes inclusive education systems that remove the barriers limiting the participation and achievement of all learners, respect diverse needs, abilities and characteristics and that eliminate all forms of discrimination in the learning environment. Reaching excluded and marginalized groups with quality education requires the development and implementation of inclusive policies and programmes. UNESCO works with governments and partners to address exclusion from, and inequality in, education.
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