Group of school children

Update: The Number of Girls with Access to Education in Darel Valley Homeschools Doubles

In 2017, after careful talk and negotiation, CAI was presented with the opportunity to create more access to education in Diamer District, an incredibly conservative area in Pakistan. In this region 72 percent of children age three to 16 are out of school, with girls representing the majority of that number. For decades outside groups have attempted to bring education to this region, but the concerned mullahs (religious leaders), were cautious of these foreign groups, many of which tried to start programs without talking with them or getting their approval.

Saidullah Baig, director of Central Asia Institute Gilgit (CAIG), one of CAI’s partners in Pakistan, held out hope that religious and community leaders would see the value of education. In the spring of 2017 he met with a group of mullahs and muftis (Muslim legal experts who are empowered to give rulings on religious matters) to talk about creating more access to education for children in Diamer (You can read about his conversation with Mufti Imtiaz Dareli on page 34 of the latest Journey of Hope magazine). These leaders were ready to improve education in their region, and Saidullah listened to their needs and concerns. In the end, Saidullah created a plan to help the mullahs bring education to their communities while honoring their religious traditions. An incredible opportunity, but something we couldn’t accomplish alone.

Over the spring and summer, CAI supporters came together to raise money to fix up a  high school in Diamer that had been left in disrepair and to open new homeschools for the younger children to learn in a safe and protected environment. Today we got word of the incredible impact on the desire for girls’ education in this region.

Homeschools in Darel Valley Provide Access to Education

CAIG set up three pilot homeschools for girls in Darel Valley, a region with 70,000 people in Diamer District, and the community is already asking for more. When the schools first opened in March 2017, 129 girls were enrolled in the classes. Now the schools are packed with 227 girls. Once the schools became available, the villagers saw how beneficial it was for their daughters. They began to trust that the homeschools were safe, and the demand began to grow.

“In Darel Valley the children are much excited about the schools. We have provided them textbooks and uniforms,” says Saidullah. “[The kids] say ‘I want to become a doctor or a nurse or a pilot.’ The kids and the people of this area are energetic.”

He continues, “Even the teachers to whom we have hired during the training we learned they are much interested. They are working hard and they have a good chance to teach their own kids. They have started a good job that is creating change in the area.”

There is Still Much Work to Be Done

Though enrollment in the homeschools has virtually doubled, the number is still dramatically low in a population of 70,000. It’s clear this community wants more access to education.

“That environment is still conservative,” says Karimuddin, manager of administration and finance at CAIG. “You have to go through a slow pace and start in small villages within some tribe specific areas. In response to initial starting of three homeschools we had 129 girls in March 2017, after people were getting knowledge of the school and they had started to bring their children in the school. Now it scaled to 227.”

Though there are many more girls to educate in Diamer, both Saidullah and Karimuddin see this first pilot program as a success. Other villages close to Darel Valley have been asking for help setting up home schools and they have more students applying to enroll than they have available spaces.

“Acceptance of this intervention means a positive change in behavior of the community towards female education,” says Saidullah.

The success of these pilot homeschools in Darel Valley is soon to spread into other areas of Diamer District, and the girls who graduate the home schools now have a chance to attend the newly finished high school. This is a small victory for girls’ education. Once more, we were humbled by the determination of girls to go to school and the generous CAI supporters who make it their mission to ensure these girls have the support and supplies they need to realize their dreams.

12 responses to “Update: The Number of Girls with Access to Education in Darel Valley Homeschools Doubles”

    • Hi Alan,

      A homeschool as we use the term is a school located in a home. Often it’s a local woman who has gone through teacher training and hosts classes in her home during the day. These types of classes are used for a variety of reasons. Sometimes local schools are too far away for children to walk, sometimes the community prefers homeschools for their young girls, or sometimes it’s a safe solution to provide education. The homeschool children receive the supplies they need to learn, and often they can move on to a school building when they are older.

    • Hello Alan

      (Katie cleared things for you)
      Let me share why home school in Darel is important for a donor to intervene in there…
      In Darel family / clans / cast system is so strong that to intervene there you need to mobilize the family head or the notables of the village, and to ensure security, they are given the charges of security and provide feasible environment….
      Independent schools are felt threat for the area (by some religious radicals)

  1. This update just thrills my heart. My husband Norm and I met Greg Mortensen’s mom while we were traveling one year and CAi was just beginning. It has been a joy to be contributors and keep hearing the updates throughout these years. What amazing work! And look at how the Lord has blessed the continuing efforts of everyone who is involved. We love giving to this very worth while non profit.

    • Hi Barb,

      You have an incredible story yourself. Thank you for supporting education in Central Asia through the years. You have had, and continue to create incredible opportunities. This story shows what you already know: with time, patience, and listening great progress can be made! Thank you so much for all you have done!

  2. I worked as a teacher for years abroad and am so glad to hear such positive things are happening for the girls in the Daimer district.

  3. We post your calendar and Journey of Hope. in our church library.
    Mother Mortenson visited us about 10 years ago. Send this news to our senators
    In all states. To Trump and the Secretary of State.

  4. providing education is a divine work.since i, myself is a teacher ,i would like to join hands with CAI.

  5. Thank you so much Central Asia Institute for your successful intervention in district Diamer to address educational crisis in this ultra-conservative area of Pakistan which have remained a great source of concern for the people and institutions of Pakistan.

    To have a fair background of this area and nature of problem at hand, I am sharing my research article on Educational Crisis in District Diamer, GB, Pakistan

    It is suggested to provide all missing facilities in existing schools of Diamer besides starting enrollment campaign through community mobilization with special focus on out of school girls. Also build new girls’ schools and post-primary level schools, closer to large communities with higher out-of-school girls’ populations and low transition levels from primary to middle as it can potentially improve gender parity score. Additionally, it is suggested to offer incentives to get education and prevent corporal punishment to increase girls enrollment.

    Furthermore, proper monitoring and participatory evaluation of the existing school to ensure the presence of school teachers, timely control of dropouts along with quality of teaching through teachers training and merit-based appointment of teachers is the need of the hour. Besides this, the government needed to involve private sector through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) as this kind of partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) under the Education Development and Improvement Programme (EDIP) have already proven to be a highly fruitful venture as it helped increase the enrollment and learning outcomes for both girls and boys in local schools in Diamer District. Last but not the least, GB government, educated youth and locals needed to take ownership of educational development by protecting educational facilities, pinpointing their educational issues and find local solution with the help of concerned stakeholders, including Non-Government Organizations besides encouraging children to attend school to address the educational crisis in District Diamer. To sensitize locals and resistance forces against girls’ education, it is suggested to arrange exposure visits to local elders, clergymen and notable social activist from Diamer to other districts Hunza and Ghaizer in GB where educational attainments are impressive and gender parity is at its best in Pakistan. Furthermore, in the age of social media, GB Education department is needed to virtually engage targeted communities through social media updates and Grievance Redressal mechanism. Let’s reiterate our commitment to play our due role to promote quality education in District Diamer as educated Diamer is in the very interest of prosperous GB and secure Pakistan.

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