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Stipend for girl student’s way forward to improve female literacy in KP

By: Intikhab Amir

PESHAWAR: The UK Department for International Development (DFID) would provide 40 million pounds to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to support its initiative of extending monthly stipends to girl students, officials told Dawn on Tuesday.

The provincial government would distribute Rs1 billion stipends among girl students of Grade-VI to Grade-X, studying at public sector schools, in all the 25 districts of the province during the current financial year, said Bashir Hussain Shah, chief planning officer, elementary and secondary education department.

“The project aims at encouraging girl students to continue education beyond Grade-V,” Rashid Khan Paindakhel, the project coordinator, told Dawn.He said that the scheme would improve female literacy in the province and an ample number of local female teachers would be available to serve in their own rural areas.

The two officials, when contacted separately, said that DFID had committed to finance the initiative for next five years. All Grade-VI to Grade-X girl students of public sector schools in all 25 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa got monthly stipends of Rs200 each, said Mr Shah.

“The Condition Cash Transfers schemes have proved a great success in South America as such schemes set pace for future economic growth,” said a development planner of the province.

He, however, sounded skeptical about the successful implementation of the scheme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because of poor monitoring mechanisms.

The Rs1 billion funds allocated for the distribution of stipends in the current financial year would be borne out of the multi-billion rupees budget support provided by DFID, added the planner.

“The government decided to fund the project from the budgetary support provided by DFID to continue its effort that showed encouraging results during the early years of implementation when it was funded out of the provincial kitty,” said Mr Paindakhel.

According to official sources, the scheme was an initiative of the previous provincial government that introduced it in seven backward districts including Dir Upper, Shangla, Tank, Buner, Kohistan, Battagram, and Hangu.

“The monthly stipend of Rs200 is paid as an incentive to every girl student, helping their families to meet the transportation cost,” said Mr. Shah. He said that a substantial number of girl students in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly in its far flung areas, did not continue education beyond Grade-V because their families could not afford the transportation cost.

In far off districts like Kohistan and Shangla girl students, added the official, left schools after Grade-V because high schools were situated, at least, one or two furlongs from villages, making it difficult for them to continue their education.

The policy, said Mr. Shah, produced positive results in all the seven districts on the basis of which the sitting government, when it came into power, decided to extend it to the whole of the province.

“Initially, the scheme was funded by the provincial government from its own resources, but now foreign assistance has been arranged to take care of the scheme’s operations,” he said.

Mr Paindakhel said that number of girl students in Grade-VI was improving by 10 to 15 per cent every year, helping to increase girls’ enrolment in the province by four per cent since its introduction.

However, another senior development planner, when contacted, said that the scheme was plagued with low attendance as families, in far off districts, had got their daughters enrolled in Grade-VI and higher classes, but many of those girls did not attend their classes regularly.

Mr Paindakhel, when asked, rejected the notion, saying that every recipient of the stipend was bound to attend 80 per cent classes every month.

The success of the scheme, said Mr Shah, was also noted in a third-party validation that was conducted some time ago to verify the government’s claim about improvement in the ratio of girl students’ transition from Grade-V to Grade-VI.

In specific terms, according to the official data, the number of girl students in Grade-VI improved from 7,290 in 2010-11 to 10,107 in 2011-12 in Dir Upper; from 2,234 to 2,732 in Shangla; from 2,868 to 3,259 in Tank; from 5,163 to 7,954 in Buner, from 2,998 to 3,144 in Hangu; from 1,249 to 1,428 in Battagram; and from 410 to 460 students in Kohistan district.