The Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) signed an agreement with 226 schools on Tuesday to bring the total number of students it sponsors under the New School Programme (NSP) to 100,000.
PEF was already spending around Rs12 million per month to sponsor around 40,000 school children. The programme started in 2008 with funds supporting 45 schools but was supporting 419 schools before the agreement.
Hassan Javed, NSP deputy director, said the programme aimed at providing support to the parallel (private) school system in various districts. “The NSP sets each school a target to offer a specific level of education when they approach the PEF for funding,” he said.
Another requirement is that there should be no other school within 2 kilometres of the school seeking funds, he said. “This aims at ensuring funds go to areas where children have low access to education.”
Sponsoring students up to grade 10, Javed said the NSP programme has its own monitoring and evaluation system to avoid fraud.
“Schools are monitored regularly,” he said, “These include those who have applied for funds and those already receiving funds.”
Javed said the entire staff and not just his 10-member team is involved in the evaluation process.
He said all NSP funded schools are inspected every three months. “If we discover fraud, we immediately cease funding,” he said. “We take legal action depending upon the particular case,” he said. He said applications are invited through newspaper advertisements. “The screening and evaluation of applications is outsourced to ensure transparency,” he said.
Previously, the PEF provided Rs300 per child per month to the schools under their NSP. This year the assistance has been increased to Rs400 per child per month.
On Tuesday, PEF chairman Raja Mohammad Anwar distributed cheques to the owners of 226 schools at the Children’s Library Complex. A PEF spokesperson said Rs27.1 million had been distributed to sponsor 67,800 students.
Arooj Aslam, the PEF deputy communications director, told The Express Tribune the PEF had been allocated a budget of Rs6.5 billion with which it would support around 4,000 schools under various programmes.
She said most of the schools under the NSP were located in Bahawalpur and Rajanpur where literacy levels was reported to be falling, she said. She said the programme hopes to provide opportunities for equal access to education to children in remote areas
Waheeda Kausar, headmistress of Little Angels School in Mamu Kanjan, around 100 kilometres from Faisalabad, received a cheque for Rs20,000. She said her school has around 100 students and four staff.
Kausar, who completed her masters from Punjab University, said she had found it difficult to complete her studies. “There are barely any schools near Mamu Kanjan. Children have to travel a long distance to seek education,” she said.
Having upgraded the school to grade 10, Kausar sought financial assistance from NSP for their 15 students between grade 6 and grade 10. She said PEF would evaluate the school’s performance in 6 months to see if they have met the goal of increasing the class strength to at least 50 students. Kausar said she hoped to hire more teachers and provide new facilities at the school.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.