In Swat, a delectable reason to be in primary school

Published: June 1, 2012
Schoolchildren pose with oil canisters. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/tHE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

Schoolchildren pose with oil canisters. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/tHE EXPRESS TRIBUNE


Apart from providing education, primary schools have an added incentive for children in upper Swat. They get free food rations for attending classes under the United Nations World Food Safety Net Feeding Programme. This has subsequently upped the enrolment rate in the schools by 60 per cent, it has been learnt.

Students have been provided energy biscuits and cooking oil under the World Food Program-sponsored programme since 2009. Teachers said that the project is achieving more than their expectations.

“Apart from increasing enrolment in primary schools, the programme aims to eliminate child labour and improve attendance,” Programme Manager Amjad Ali told The Express Tribune. He said that around 130,000 children and teachers in 610 primary schools of the upper Swat have benefited from the programme.

Balancing an oil canister in his hands, Muhammad Ali, a second grader who was returning home on Wednesday, said joyously: “We get parathas (oiled flatbread) with tea at school daily in the morning, which we did not get before.”

Another schoolboy, also holding an oil canister he got from school, seemed even more jubilant than his classmates. “We are getting double advantage: study and food. We love our school,” they said in unison.

“This is an effective way of attracting children towards schools,” said Kalam Education Department Centre In-charge Shah Nazar. “We don’t need to launch new campaigns to attract students; we are already short of space to accommodate them,” he said. Nazar added the programme has also motivated parents who were initially sceptical about sending their children to school and were more inclined towards sending them to work instead.

Abdul Ghafar Khan, a teacher in Kalam, concurred. He said that with the incentive of food, even street children have been admitted to schools.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • observer
    Jun 1, 2012 - 2:13PM

    This is a tested strategy for improving school attandance in impoverished areas/communities. In India too the mid day meal for school children has seen school attendance going up.


  • Ali S
    Jun 1, 2012 - 3:00PM

    Excellent, excellent initiative – let’s hope that it’s sustainable and diverts poverty-stricken families from sending their kids to madrassas. A proper education is the only way to prosperity for this country and we need to make an investment in our youth and children.


  • Jun 1, 2012 - 7:16PM

    According to Harvard researchers Robert Barro & Jhong-wa Lee, Pakistan has been increasing enrollment of students in schools at a faster rate since 1990 than India. In 1990, there were 66.2% of Pakistanis vs 51.6% of Indians who had no schooling. In 2000, there were 60.2% Pakistanis vs 43% Indians with no schooling. In 2010, Pakistan reduced it to 38% vs India’s 32.7%.


  • Babar Zia
    Jun 1, 2012 - 10:28PM

    @ Riaz Haq

    What is the relevance of your comment here. it is heartening to see that in 1990 there were 66.2% of Pakistanis who had no schooling compared to 38% now. What is the point of comparing this with India. How does does this up yours or i am a percent point better than you attitude attitude in every aspect of life benefit Pakistan?


  • Huma
    Jun 2, 2012 - 3:39AM

    i wish this could be implemented all over pakistan, so that all could get educated.


  • dv sikka
    Jun 2, 2012 - 3:54AM

    Finally a really good news from Pakistan. Please keep it up. I hope that the girls are also getting these benefits.


  • Jun 2, 2012 - 4:00AM

    @Zia:”i am a percent point better than you attitude attitude in every aspect of life benefit Pakistan?”

    It’s called benchmarking, and helps you understand how you are doing relative to your region….and Barro-Lee dataset is used for this purpose by the UN and its various agencies.

    It shows that in spite of faster progress, Pakistan is still 5% behind in getting children into schools, but Pakistan has done better than India in terms of the percent of population completing high school and college education.

    BTW, would you rather compete in an arms race?


  • Zohaib
    Jun 2, 2012 - 11:40AM

    the Education department should be streamlined also


  • Jun 2, 2012 - 11:40AM

    WFP school feeding initiative has multiple objectives one is to address short-term hunger faced by students coming from extremely poor families by providing high energy biscuits as mid-day snake this provides them daily a minimum of 337 – 345 kcal daily nutrient requirement of 1700 kcal. The programme also partially alleviate micronutrient deficiency amongst children by providing up to 75% of their recommended micronutrient intakes
    The fortified vegetable oil ration is targeting all students to provide the extra incentive to families to send their children to primary school. In times of economic hardship, disaster or in conflict it is anticipated that primary school literacy will be hardest hit as parents will cut domestic expenditures on education to cope with the shocks. In this case the take home ration seeks to act as a safety net for the family. Over 1.2 million children (girls and boys) are being benefitted through this programme across Pakistan.


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