IQRA (Improving Quality, Retention & Access) Swat-Kohistan Education Campaign

The IQRA--Swat-Kohistan Education Campaign is a 9-month three-tier campaign with, by, and for all the stakeholders in order to address the lack of access to education and poor performance of the public sector schools in the 6 union councils of Swat-Kohistan in the district of Swat.
The campaign was meant to raise public awareness for education and seek improvement of it in collaboration with civil society and the government.
IBT-designed the education campaign to work with the traditional jirgas (existing traditional social assembly) so as to involve them for improvement in the current dismal state of education in Swat-Kohistan, the ignored and least developed idyllic valley region in the upper swathes of Swat district. So far the local organisation has organised seventeen such large jirgas with the villagers of almost all the villages of the target area. IBT has by the end of the campaign networked all the Jirgas into a larger one, named Swat-Kohistan Qaumi Jirga.

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES

1. Increased and deepened public awareness about education.
2. Informed people about the problems in education and the deliverables of the campaign.
3. Strengthened the parents-teachers-government relationship.
4. Empowered the marginalized local ethnic communities to demand their right to education from the providers.

HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED

The implanting organization, IBT, planned a bottom-top approach in order to achieve the objectives. First, its activists conducted a survey with the people on the problems in education. Second, the activists held Jirgas (council meetings) with the people of each village. Third, after having the initial meetings with the villagers of all the 35 villages in the area IBT held Taleemi Jirgas (Jirgas on Education) in each of the union councils/wards. Two such Taleemi Jirgas were held in each union council. Fourth, larger Jirgas on the basis of the union council in each union council were held. Meanwhile, a report in English and Urdu was published. Fifth, these Jirgas were networked and mobilized into a larger area level Jirga named Swat-Kohistan Qaumi Jirga (Swat-Kohistan National Council) on education. Along with having these Jirgas two documentaries on education in the concerned areas were made. Media of all kinds were involved in the campaign.

CAMPAIGN INNOVATIONS

The most innovative aspect of the campaign is the use of indigenous social capital, which works voluntarily. The campaign was turned into a movement so as to involve all the people. It was carried out by empowering the local people from the grassroots level.
IBT didn't use the usual rhetoric of most of the NGO sector. It did so because NGOs in this part of the world are notorious among the people. Besides, they kill the voluntary zeal of the people.
In order to ensure effective voluntary engagement of the people IBT utilized and orientated the existing social capital.

CAMPAIGN IMPACT

The campaign has recently wrapped up. Its immediate impacts are:
1. A well aware and fully empowered bigger Jirga with more than 600 members
2. Education has now become part of the discourse among the ordinary local people
3. A couple of people with land have announced they will provide land free of charge for building schools
4. In the recent local government election in the area education became a pressing issue among the contestants
5. The government has sanctioned 153 teaching positions to the area
6. Enrolment in the existing schools has been increased by 13 percent
7. Three dysfunctional primary schools have been made functional
8. Demand for education among the people has increased. IBT got over 100 applications for schools from the people
9. In certain areas the people were reluctant to send their daughters to schools but now these girls have started schooling
10. Monitoring of the government schools by the people has begun.

CHALLENGES FACED

Biggest challenges
1. Insufficient budget
2. Hard hilly terrain
3. People’s dependency on NGOs, as most of the NGOs - after the militancy and floods in Swat - have given cash to the people. This has developed negative attitudes among the ordinary people who expect cash from organizations.
4. Fear of Taliban and target killing was the most pressing challenge as one cannot easily operate in Swat, especially ones like us who are aware activists.
5. Poverty and seasonal migration of the local people: the poor people cannot spare voluntary time as they are too entangled in earning a daily livelihood. And the seasonal migration from areas where the winter is too hard delayed our work there. The seasonal migration also puts the future of the children at stake.

LESSONS LEARNT

1. The social capital (Jirga institution) is an effective way to mobilize the people on issues like education
2. People are not against girls' education. It is the government/state that has not given education its due significance
3. Jirga is a good forum to localize the discourse around education
4. The people are aware of education but they don't know the exact channels to get their problems addressed
5. The Swat-Kohistan Qaumi Jirga—a network of all village Jirga with formal TORs has been formed and mobilized
6. Swat-Kohistan Qaumi Jirga needs sustainability to continue advocacy on the problems in education and other issues
7. The Swat-Kohisatn Qaumi Jirga needs to be involved with the district and provincial governments continuously so that they can lobby for the establishment of more schools and colleges, and the betterment in the existing infrastructure
8. The Swat-Kohistan Qaumi Jirga can be utilized to hold the education department and local government accountable