Recent years have seen a growth in non-formal schools that have sprung up in both rural and urban areas. They are outside the ambit of the national education system, are poorly equipped in most respects and lack sanitation or a boundary wall. They are run often by local activists and philanthropists or social workers and offer a very basic education to children. Some are run by NGOs and one such is the school that operates under a flyover in Clifton, Karachi. It is being reported that the Sindh government has ordered that the school is to be handed over along with the children to the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) or it will be shut down.
Both the school and the government are between a rock and a hard place. There are upwards of 2,000 children attending and finding a place for them that they would be prepared to go to which may not geographically suit them is not going to be easy given their numbers. The government as it sees is doing its duty in recognising the vulnerabilities of children being educated informally. Those running the school argue that the children are getting something which is better than nothing and are at least protected while attending school. The school in question has garnered international interest — and praise — and any attempt to close it down or enforce assimilation is going to generate negative reporting.
Both sides are right. The children would be better off in a state school or a school run by SEF, but those that run the school have justifiable doubts about how the school would be run in the future given the generally appalling track record of the Sindh government. There is a real danger of this being a lose-lose for education and specifically the children under the flyover. Stand back, take a deep breath and think out of the box.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2018.
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