Dubai: A Pakistan-based non-profit organisation, The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF), registered at the International Humanitarian City (IHC), Dubai, held its first webinar during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to apprise its UAE patrons on how it was managing the education of underprivileged children during this period.
Webinar unveils educational work with underprivileged children
The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF) held a Zoom webinar on April 7 that was attended by over 100 members of the UAE community such as young professionals, businessmen, and people who support the cause of education. TCF was conferred the MGM awards for its innovative education methods and the Best COVID-19 response by the International Humanitarian City in March 2021.
Speaking at the webinar, Ateed Riaz, its founder-director, said, “Our goal is to empower the children of Pakistan with quality education so they can grow up to become agents of positive change and work to transform their communities and the society at large. It is only through education that we can help our children escape inter generational poverty and set them on the path of self-reliance. We are deeply grateful to the UAE community for whole-heartedly supporting the cause of education over these years and helping us bring more children from streets into schools.”
How does TCF function?
Pakistan, the world’s sixth largest populous country, has the second-highest number of children out of school. These kids often face deep-rooted structural inequalities that are most often linked to gender biases, poverty and lack of access to quality schools. The issue was further exacerbated due to school closures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This accentuated inequalities as TCF students had little to no access to digital learning tools.
A present, TCF operates 1,652 school units in urban slums and rural areas across more than 700 communities in Pakistan where children were previously out-of-school. It has an enrolment of 266,000 deserving students, nearly half of whom are girls. The foundation is the largest private employer of women in Pakistan with more than 12,500 teachers and principals.
Meeting the challenge of COVID-19 head on
The webinar described in detail how the foundation countered the challenge of educating children in the absence of widespread online or digital learning in this period. During the pandemic TCF adopted several audio-visual measures to keep students engaged. It launched an initiative called Ilm ka Anga (the learning courtyard) that had engaging television shows on national television. In Pakistan, approximately two-third households have access to television and the educational shows had about eight million views per week.
The webinar highlighted the launch of an edutainment magazine within the learning courtyard programme. This magazine was distributed through schools to children who other wise had no access to digital learning to promote self-study. The initiative was successful as 1.4 million copies of the magazine were distributed to students in this period.
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Grassroots educational campaign
The foundation continues to work at grass roots level in Pakistan reaffirming its commitment to the cause of education by creating two million agents of positive change. It is also involved in advising the Pakistani government on issues such as adult literacy programme targeting older women and school dropout kids in the age group of 16-18 years, using specially designed textbooks for education.
Committed to education of the underprivileged
Reiterating its intent, Zia Abbas, Executive Vice President of TCF said, “The pandemic has caused a massive disruption in education, especially for the children living in poverty – most of whom don’t have resources to continue their education online. We have and will continue to keep learning alive for our children during and beyond the pandemic with the support and dedication of our teachers, principals, volunteers and donors.”