Pakistan’s parents commit to children’s rights & education

By Jillian Slutzker

December 16, 2015

Children, parents and teachers at primary schools across Pakistan’s Sindh province celebrated Universal Children’s Day by reaffirming their commitment to children’s rights.

At schools participating in the USAID-funded Pakistan Reading Project—a national program to improve the quality of literacy education in early grades in public schools—parents attended children’s rights advocacy sessions on Nov. 27 to learn about the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and how to help realize these rights for their children.

The Pakistan Reading Project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the International Rescue Committee, Creative Associates International and other partners.

The advocacy sessions opened a new way of thinking and reenergized many parents’ commitment to their children’s development, especially in education.

“I was not aware that children have rights too,” said Nabila Begum, whose child participates in the program. “This activity of parent advocacy made me realize that children are the most valuable assets of our nation… I will ensure my child gets an education.”

Keeping students in school and boosting reading are critical for Pakistan, where according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, around 27 percent of primary school age children are out of school and about 25 percent of the population is illiterate.

Children take a stand

On community walks, parents and children displayed signs raising awareness about children’s rights.

As parents gathered to learn more about children’s rights, from education to health to protection from economic exploitation, teachers and students in many schools took part in community advocacy walks to raise awareness about the rights of children. Back at school, students decorated and colored signs expressing different aspects of children’s rights.

“My children were excited and I was too,” said Sabiha Baig, a mother of students in the program.

Baig said the activities opened her eyes to the care, respect and opportunities children need to grow and develop. “When I came to school, I learned that children need health, education and protection to grow as fine human beings,” she said. “It is the responsibility of all parents to give these basic rights to children. I am very thankful to USAID for touching upon such critical topics which are neglected in our part of society.”

The right to education & a promising future

Children colored signs about children’s rights to celebrate Universal Children’s Day.

Equal access to quality education is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Pakistan ratified in 1990.

By raising awareness about the importance of education among parents and community members, and improving the quality of classroom instruction, the project aims to instill a love for learning in children and to equip them with skills for a brighter future.

Project investments in pre-service teacher training, curriculum development and community events like the Universal Children’s Day celebration seem to be paying off, according to parents.

“The USAID-funded Pakistan Reading Project has enabled my child to take a great interest in learning. Now he comes home excited and makes sure that he reads at least one book during bedtime,” said Shahida Bilo, a mother of a student in the program. “The project has helped him learn new things, including how to plan for his future. He now wants to become an engineer and make airplanes. The project has made him dream and I pray that all his dreams come true.”

With reporting by Shelina Bhamani, Assessment Manager – Sindh, Pakistan Reading Project

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