Illiteracy In The Under Privileged Classes Communities Education Essay

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INTRODUCTION

Pakistan with its 170 million people is the seventh most populous country in the world. Its people are hard working, innovative, and intelligent; however, their potential to progress and have a better quality of life is, unfortunately, hindered by one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. According to 2008 statistics, the overall literacy rate stands at 46% while only 26% of the females are literate.

Illiteracy in Pakistan can be attributed to several factors, the main ones being high population growth rate, poverty, discrimination against females, child labor and myopic attitudes. A closer study of the situation would show that the above causative factors are inter-related. According to UNICEF, 17.6% of Pakistani children are working and supporting their families. Pakistan has one of the highest population growth rates in the world (i.e. 2.2% per annum) which puts pressure on the resources without generating abundant employment opportunities due to which the majority of the population remains poor. Most poor families cannot afford to educate their children as they do not earn enough to pay school fees and buy books for them. Instead, it is very common for such families to make their children work as domestic help so that there are bread winners for the family. The child labor force consists of more girls than boys as there is a general attitude amongst the conservative families to confine girls within the four walls of their home and not letting them attend schools. However, when it comes to their potential for contributing to the family income, the girls are allowed to work in homes of the elite as domestic help. The larger the family, the difficult it is to support it. Currently, approximately 50 million Pakistanis can not read and write. A short sighted mindset of most under-privileged communities is also one of the major reasons contributing to illiteracy in Pakistan; they regard education as a waste of time rather than an investment into the long term future of their children. They do not realize that with education and the right skills, they can get better and well-paying jobs.

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Apart from looking at the causes of illiteracy in the underprivileged communities of Pakistan, this essay will attempt to present some possible solutions for this problem. Various solutions --- both in the private and the public sector --- have been tried in various parts of the world and can be successfully replicated in Pakistan. For instance, the government can make education compulsory and free for everyone because the underprivileged classes can not afford it. Donors like the World Bank have encouraged (and should continue to encourage) the government to provide incentives in form of providing free text books, stipends to girls who attend schools, whereas other agencies like the World Food Program have been distributing edible oil to help improve the nutritional level of children, in addition to encouraging them to attend school.

My goal for this project is to research the causes of illiteracy in Pakistan and come up with possible solutions to this problem. I intend to select two successfully run schools in Pakistan as case studies and interview their principals, and some of their students, parents and teachers and create a video as my product. However, my overall goal is to be creative, use my time well, and enjoy my project instead of taking it as a huge burden on my head. To achieve my objective, I will begin my researching the main causes of illiteracy in Pakistan. Once I complete the research, I plan to start working on my product. Since I will be visiting Pakistan during the winter break, it will be easier for me to take interviews. After learning how to edit videos from a friend, I intend to practice editing a few, and when I feel comfortable with this process, I will edit the actual videos. When I start researching on the causes, many questions will come to my mind which I would like to ask the selected schools supporting this cause in Pakistan.

Interview Questionnaire:

For each of the schools selected, I intend to ask the following questions in the interview:

Founder of the School:

Q 1.) In your opinion, what are the causes of illiteracy in Pakistan and what are the solutions?

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Q 2.) What is your school doing for the students?

Q 3.) Is it also doing something for their parents/families/community?

Principal:

Q 1.) In your opinion, what are the causes of illiteracy in Pakistan and what are the solutions?

Q 2.) What is your school doing for the students?

Q 3.) Is it also doing something for their parents/families/community?

Teachers:

Q 1.) What grade level do you teach?

Q 2.) How do you cope with students' range of literacy levels in your class?

Q 3.) How do you find/judge the literacy levels in your class? What tests do you use for finding out the literacy levels?

Students:

Q 1.) How did you learn to read?

Q 2.) What positive changes has education made in your life?

Q 3.) Why do you read? How often each day/week do you read?

Parents:

Q 1.) What is your educational background?

Q 2.) Do you think it is worth sending you children to school?

Q 3.) Do you think education has changed your child?

The schools I will visit in Pakistan for this project are The Garage School which is located in the city of Karachi and Mazhar Naseem High School which is situated just a few kilometers away from Lahore in a sub-urban area. Both these schools educate the under-privileged children without charging any fee. They provide for requirements such as uniforms, food, medical care and text books at their own expense.

The area of interaction for my project is "Community and Service" because the topic relates to the underprivileged communities in Pakistan and it studies how they can be served effectively in terms of improving the literacy levels leading to better quality of life.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROCESS

I had the first meeting with my supervisor on Friday, October 2, 2009. That day, I explained to my supervisor what the topic means exactly and what I intend to do in the project. My supervisor gave me some ideas on how to go about it. My initial idea was to create a presentation on Power Point and insert a video-recording of interviews in it but my supervisor advised that it would be better to make a video only; so, this is what I have done in my final product.

I first submitted the Introduction part on Monday, October 12. I got feedback on it on Wednesday, October 14, 2009. I had mentioned a lot about the problem, but didn't specify as to "what I will do in my project". Also, I had not stated the area of interaction of my project, the questions I was planning to ask in my interviews, and some information about the schools to be visited. This was the main part of Introduction, and I did not describe much about it. I submitted the final introduction on November 5, 2009 and kept interacting with my supervisor till the date of the final submission. I tried my best to redo the introduction the way my supervisor had advised me to.

The next part of the personal project was the product. I went to two schools who offer free education to the under-privileged classes. As mentioned earlier, I had selected two schools based on their reputation for success in their missions. One was The Garage School which is in Karachi, and Mazhar Naseem High School located in Lahore. I interviewed the principal, teachers, students and parents in each of these schools. One of my friends in Pakistan supported me in recording these interviews as it was not possible for me to simultaneously ask questions and maintain my concentration in recording the videos. Some teachers as well as the students' parents in The Garage School spoke in Urdu; same was the case at Mazhar Naseem High School. Thus, I had to edit the interviews at both the schools by adding subtitles in English and removing some parts. In addition, I included transitions and background music to the interviews. I downloaded and inserted music from Power Point. After editing all the interviews taken at both the schools, I made a video. I made one video for each of the schools and then merged them. I also used the Paint software application to make a cover page for Mazhar Naseem High School. For giving the video, a more professional touch, I used Windows Movie Maker.

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I took the interviews in The Garage School on Monday, December 21, 2009. Names of the people I interviewed are listed below:

Principal - Ms. Sara Zulfiqar

Teacher 1 - Ms. Tahira

Teacher 2 - Ms. Rukhsana

Student 1 - Ms. Shehana

Student 2 - Mr. Sikandar

The interviews in Mazhar Naseem High School were taken on January, 1, 2010. Names of the people I interviewed there are stated below:

Founder - Mr. Avais Mazhar Hussain

Principal - Mrs. Neelam Avais

Teacher 1 - Ms. Farzana

Teacher 2 - Ms. Tayyaba

Student 1 - Ms. Lianat

Student 2 - Ms. Lena

Student 3 - Ms. Khadija

I started editing The Garage School videos on Saturday, January 16, 2010. I worked on them for about 4 hours and 12 minutes that day (11:00 A.M - 12:15 P.M, 3:05 A.M - 3:59 P.M, 4:26 - 5:15, and 7:00 - 8:12 P.M). I handed over the edited version to my supervisor on Monday, January 18, 2010. My supervisor watched the video and advised me the next day to keep the same size for the subtitles throughout the video. The first edited video did not have any background music, credits or names of the persons being interviewed. I added all these items in the final version of the video.

For Mazhar Naseem High School videos, I began the editing process on Wednesday, January 20, 2010. This took about 3 hours and 15 minutes (10:00 A.M - 12:13 P.M and 2:00 P.M to 2:49 P.M) to complete. I delivered this part of my product to my supervisor on Friday, January 22, 2010. My supervisor provided me feedback on January 27, 2010 advising me to use the same font and size throughout the video. She also advised me to make a concluding statement on how I think Pakistan could address the problem of illiteracy since I had spoken to a number of people about it.

I added the statement to the final video but was unable to change the font style and size. I combined all the interviews into one single DVD. In the final DVD, I added subtitles to identify the people who were being interviewed, and to make it more attractive, added some background music to it. I also included a short documentary film for The Garage School which the Principal of the school had given me. I submitted the final product to my supervisor on Thursday, February 4, 2010.

I used the following sources for my introduction:

http://www.chowrangi.com/illiteracy-overpopulation-paksitans-major-problems.html

http://www.interface.edu.pk/students/Aug-08/Pakistan-lingering-illiteracy.asp

http://www.yespakistan.com/education/ch_illiteracy.asp

http://www.unesco.org/education/efa/know_sharing/grassroots_stories/pakistan_2.shtml

http://www.nceonline.com/communityliteracy.htm

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Islamabad/08-Sep-2009/Pakistan-lags-behind-in-literacy-primary-education-says-President

http://www.blurtit.com/q111379.html

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008\08\19\story_19-8-2008_pg3_3

I feel confident that I have developed my project consistently with my plan. My final product came out exactly the way I had planned and wanted. Also, I believe that I used good sources because they contained a lot of useful information for this project.

ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION

I am confident that I have done a fairly good job in my personal project, "Illiteracy in the Underprivileged Communities of Pakistan and Possible Solutions". However, a few things did not work the way I was expecting, but overall, I feel that I have done a good job.

I chose the topic "Illiteracy in the Underprivileged Communities of Pakistan and Possible Solutions" because I wanted to learn about the main causes of illiteracy in my home country. I knew Mrs. Shabina Mustafa, the founder of The Garage School, (a school which started in a garage for the underprivileged society) quite well and had a lot of interaction with her school when I was residing in Karachi. When I came to know of the low literacy rate of only 46% in Pakistan, I wondered why the literacy rate was so low and became very much interested in discovering the reasons and the possible solutions to this problem which my country is facing for the last many decades as a serious disease.

The original plan for my product was to interview the principals, teachers, students, and parents of the selected schools which are involved in helping the underprivileged societies of Pakistan, create a video, and then add it to a PowerPoint presentation, but I had to make a few changes to my plan. I had to choose between a video and a presentation. I felt that creating a video would be a better option as it would give me more opportunities to hear the opinions of people belonging to the underprivileged sections of the society. This is one of the main things which didn't work out according to my original plan. I should have looked into this aspect prior to submitting the product plan.

I faced a few problems while creating my product. My plan was not only to include interviews in my video, but also recordings of some school assemblies and other similar events. I was unable to do so because my camera's memory was full and I was not able to take any more recordings. I could have planned better by purchasing another memory stick or borrowing another camera from someone else to avoid this constraint.

MAIN CAUSES OF ILLITERACY:

Based on my research and interviews, I discovered that there are various causes of illiteracy in Pakistan, but the main ones, in my opinion are: widespread poverty, lack of parents' interest in their children's education, shortage of good teachers, and inadequate attention on the part of the government in addressing this serious issue.

Poverty

Approximately, one-thirds of Pakistan's population lives under the poverty line (i.e., subsistence level of less than US $ 2 per day). The poor families are unable to afford food, clothing, and shelter. Hence, they want their children to earn so that they can at least have the basic necessities of life such as food and shelter which have a much higher priority than education.

Lack of parents' interest

Many parents are not interested in educating their children because they themselves are not educated and do not know the importance of education. Some of them feel that it is a waste of time and money to educate their children, especially daughters, because eventually they have to get married, and hence there will be no benefit to the family. Instead, they force their daughters to work as maids or as other domestic help in upper-middle/ high-class people's houses. Some of the parents believe that it is better to make their children work instead of attending school because that would increase the monthly income of the family and enable them to meet the basic needs of food and clothing, at least to some extent.

Thus, it is clear that, unfortunately, child labor is preferred to child education for economic reasons.

Inadequate attention by the Government

The Government of Pakistan has not given serious attention to this problem. Currently, the government does not have sufficient resources to invest in the field of education and does not give priority to education as compared to the non-development sectors of the economy such as administration and defense. Corruption in the government departments is another factor hampering the cause of education in Pakistan. For example, the school development funds are embezzled, teachers in the less developed areas of the country do not attend school but receive their salary, etc.

Shortage of good teachers

There is a huge shortage of good teachers in Pakistan. The main cause in my opinion is that the schools are not willing to pay the teachers well. Most of the good teachers in Pakistan rather than devoting their time to schools that employ them, run their own tuition or coaching centers because the schools don't pay them well. They earn four to five times more by running a tuition center rather than teaching full-time at a school. Another problem that I observed even at both the schools that I visited for my project is that the good teachers don't come to these schools for teaching even if they are paid well; perhaps, the reason behind this particular issue is that these schools demand a lot of work form their teachers; also, the younger female teachers do not resume their jobs after they get married as their husbands do not want them to continue their jobs; also, at times, the transportation from home to school and then back home is also a problem.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

Based on what I observed at the schools I selected for my project and my discussion with various people as well as the research available on this topic, I can suggest a combination of solutions such as the following:

Incentives to the parents and students

Both the schools that I visited for my personal project faced resistance from the parents of the illiterate children. In order to convince the parents to send their children to school, they paid the parents double the amount their children were earning and educated them without charging any fees .They provide all the children with free snacks and milk at school. For example, The Garage School is sponsored by food companies, Gluco and Nestle. Gluco provides the school with free biscuits for the students and Nestle provides free milk. The school also takes care of their health needs. Students are vaccinated against various diseases on a regular basis and are provided free medicines. Expenses for surgeries and other medical treatments are also paid by the school. Stationery, uniforms, books, and school bags are all provided by these schools.

Therefore, providing monetary and other incentives to such families is one of the solutions to this problem.

Vocational education for the students as well as parents

This would be yet another incentive for both the students and the parents as it offers hope of better future opportunities.

Both the schools that I visited in Pakistan do not only teach the standard course books to the children, but they also provide excellent vocational training to the students as well as their parents. Students of The Garage School are also sent to the factories Toyota and Nissan Motor Companies in Karachi for vocational training. The Garage School also gives sewing and carpentry lessons to the parents so that the parents can learn new, marketable skills and earn money. When the students complete Grade-7 from The Garage School, they are sent to the top most schools of Karachi such as St. Patrick's and St. Paul's to complete their remaining high school years and prepare for college education. The fee for these schools is also borne by The Garage School. The aim of the school is not only to educate the students to a certain level or grade --- they want their students to go to colleges and universities and achieve something significant in life. For example, I was very much impressed by Mrs. Tahira, (the teacher who I also interviewed) was one of the first students of The Garage School. After graduating from The Garage School, she was sent to a good high school in Karachi to complete her remaining school years and after that she expressed her desire to become a teacher. Seeing her passion, Mrs. Shabina Mustafa (the founder) supported her to gain admission to a well known university in Pakistan where she received her degree. Today, she is an excellent teacher who holds a senior position at The Garage School as well as another well known school in Karachi. Similarly, another student of the school has become an excellent computer engineer by dint of his hard work. At Mazhar Naseem High School too, they arrange apprenticeships for students as well as parents at Angora Textiles Limited (the factory owned by the founder, Mr. Avais Mazhar Hussain).

Better Training of Teachers

To solve the problem of shortage of good teachers, appropriate training should be provided after their selection for the teaching posts. This training should continue frequently even during their jobs so that they remain in touch with their subjects and good methods of teaching. Both the schools that I visited, try their best to regularly train their teachers within their limited means. I feel that not only the government and the private sector but the social welfare organizations (particularly the global ones like The Children's Foundation, Save the Children, Melinda & Bill gates Foundation) should contribute to the effort of professional training of the teachers at such schools.

Better compensation for teachers

As I stated earlier, teachers in Pakistan are not paid very well. Again, the private sector should come up with more donations along with the social work organizations to solve this issue. To my understanding, there is no bonus system for the teachers in such schools in Pakistan; I strongly suggest that teachers who perform well should be paid bonuses.

Also, some transportation allowance or actual transportation should be provided to the teachers; this can also be done by the government buses not charging any fares from the teachers who can be issued special cards for this purpose.

Voluntary teachers

One of the possible solutions to overcome the shortage of teachers could be to make Community & Service (CAS) compulsory for all high school (Grade-12) and college/university students in Pakistan. They should be asked to teach for a minimum number of hours at schools in the underprivileged parts of Pakistan on voluntary basis. This can result in solving this issue to some extent. Also, at least some students may actually get interested in adopting teaching as a regular profession later on. CAS is a very good concept that I have experienced in the IB system of education and I feel it can be used as a possible solution for the problem of illiteracy.

Partnership between government and private companies/individuals

For reasons I have mentioned earlier, the government cannot alone be depended upon to solve the problem of illiteracy in the underprivileged communities of Pakistan. More people from the private sector should help in this great cause. For example, the wealthy businessmen and corporations should support schools for the under-privileged classes. This can be done by adopting such schools, participating in their fund-raising or sponsorship activities, donating resources such as library books, furniture, etc. I am personally aware of the successful fund-raising effort done by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2008 which can be followed by other banks and companies.

The government can also play an important role by working with these schools in designing and accrediting their courses/programs, arranging training, donating land and buildings, giving them other concessions, making education free for all till the high school level, etc.

In conclusion, I feel that although illiteracy amongst the underprivileged communities of Pakistan is a very serious problem, it should be taken as a challenge. There is a lot of hope for improvement if more schools like The Garage School and Mazhar Naseem High School are set up and supported by the well-off communities, the social welfare organizations, and the government. I enjoyed doing this project because it gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about my country that I never knew before. Also, I was able to give some good suggestions to solve this problem based on my research, discussions, and interviews. In addition, I feel that I spread some awareness of this problem as a number of people who visited me at the project exhibition on March 17, 2010 at IICS asked me a lot of questions and I did my best to answer them.

I would like to thank several people who helped me in completing this project, for example:

The founders, principals, teachers, students, and parents at The Garage School in Karachi and Mazhar Naseem High School for giving me the time for interviews/discussions, etc.

My friend Omar …. in Pakistan for helping me with the video recordings.

My project supervisor, Ms….. for her valuable feedback at different stages of the project.

My parents for visiting me at the personal project exhibition in IICS on March 17, 2010 and encouraging me.

APPENDIX-1

SUMMARY OF RESPONSES RECEIVED FOR QUESTIONS ASKED FROM THE FOUNDERS, PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS, STUDENTS, AND PARENTS

Founder of the School:

Q 1.) In your opinion, what are the causes of illiteracy in Pakistan and what are the solutions?

Answer 1:

Q 2.) What is your school doing for the students?

Answer 2:

Q 3.) Is it also doing something for their parents/families/community?

Answer 3:

Principal:

Q 1.) In your opinion, what are the causes of illiteracy in Pakistan and what are the solutions?

Answer 1:

Q 2.) What is your school doing for the students?

Answer 2:

Q 3.) Is it also doing something for their parents/families/community?

Answer 3:

Teachers:

Q 1.) What grade level do you teach?

Answer 1:

Q 2.) How do you cope with students' range of literacy levels in your class?

Answer 2:

Q 3.) How do you find/judge the literacy levels in your class? What tests do you use for finding out the literacy levels?

Answer 3:

Students:

Q 1.) How did you learn to read?

Answer 1

Q 2.) What positive changes has education made in your life?

Answer 2:

Q 3.) Why do you read? How often each day/week do you read?

Answer 3:

Parents:

Q 1.) What is your educational background?

Answer 1:

Almost all the parents had received some education --- from primary up to matriculation (Grade-10).

Q 2.) Do you think it is worth sending you children to school?

Answer 2:

Q 3.) Do you think education has changed your child?

Answer 3:

APPENDIX-2

APPROXIMATE STUDENT POPULATION AT EACH OF THE TWO SCHOOLS

THE GARAGE SCHOOL:

Total Number of Students: 650

Boys: 340

Girls: 310

Average # of Students Per Class:

Number of Grades/Classes; Grades 1 to 7.

MAZHAR NASEEM HIGH SCHOOL:

Total Number of Students: 714

Boys: 287

Girls: 427

Average Class Size: 71

Number of Grades/Classes; Grades 1 to 10