ISLAMABAD: Educating Afghan children was extremely important to send out a positive image of Pakistan across the world, said Ms.Fajer Rabia Pasha, Executive Director, Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education (PAGE). She was delivering a talk at a session titled ‘Challenges & Responses in the Field of Education: A Tale of Pak-Afghan Post-War Societies’. The session was jointly organized by the Pak-Afghan Youth Forum (PAYF) and the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) under the former institute’s series titled ‘Stories We Live By’.
Reflecting on her personal experiences as a student and as an activist, Ms Pasha narrated how her years in England triggered her passion to set up her first learning center in order to facilitate women, in order to improve their livelihoods. Economic empowerment, education incentives, settlement of post-marriage issues were at the core of the interventions among others that her institute worked upon, she added. In 2013, Ms Pasha moved back to Pakistan. Her intent, she added, to lay the foundation for a conducive learning environment for girls, in particular. Whether it was in the realm of politics, social justice or merely at the core of human existence, Ms Fajer observed, educating girls was imperative to move toward a sustainable future.
She said that PAGE had been working with the Afghan refugees since 2015. As a developing country, though, Pakistan lacked the resources to attend to the vulnerable groups, but the responsibility to engage with them rested with us as their host country. She explained her experience when PAGE set up the first school for refugees. She said that the refugee community took ample time to decide on sending their children to school. Ms Fajer highlighted that despite the intent to expand PAGE’s initiatives in cities such as Lakki Marwat, which was underway, certain indigenous factors still had the potential of serving as bottlenecks in conservative societies.
Describing the challenges associated with the Afghan students, Ms Pasha said that poverty lied at the heart of the alarmingly low enrollment rate of young Afghan girls and boys attending school. This was the case as most of the student lot were working as fruit/vegetable vendors to support their families. She added that cultural values were also an important determinant. Assuring families, that the cultural and familial values in their children will remain unchanged was, hence, a major priority in all the initiatives designed by PAGE. Additionally, awareness on the significance and long-term impacts of educated girls was a notable part of PAGE strategy. She further said that it was imperative to introduce capacity-building trainings for the teaching staff in order to bring them to terms with the kind of progressive mind-set that was imperative to liberate young Afghan girls and that PAGE was seriously focused on addressing the issue. Ms Pasha added that the refugees stationed in Pakistan at present were being taught Afghan curriculum and were tested via Afghan Board. In that, she said that it was imperative to accept them as our own children if the larger aim was to put out a positive message regarding Pakistan.
- Press Release