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Schools in the Thar desert... By Gulsher

26 March, 2013

The Thar Desert, starting from India and ending in Pakistan, is spread over 19,637 square kilometres and has a population of about 1.4 million. Poverty procreates side problems and the unavailability of education in most of Thar is one of the gravest problems the people here face. When schools remain closed in relatively accessible areas and towns in the rest of Sindh then imagine what the situation in the nook and corner of the remote areas of Thar is where there are no roads and the population is scattered. Public sector education assumes utmost importance in Thar as it can enable the new generation to break the vicious cycle of poverty and superstitions that prevail in this society. However, the ground realities there paint a dismal picture. Overall, the public education system in Thar is on the verge of collapse. In such conditions, some civil society organisations are working for the revival of education as a ray of hope.

The Association for Water, Applied Education and Renewable Energy (AWARE), an indigenous nongovernmental organisation working in Tharparkar district with the support of Action Aid, is one of such NGO that has established seven children's learning resource centres (CLRCs) since 2010 in far-flung areas of Thar. These centres, along with their syllabus, also offer recreational activities. The teacher's kit, sports articles, science material, global map, writing boards, dice, notice boards, carpets and a good collection of interesting books, including story books and dictionaries, have been provided to the schools. Two DVD players have been donated to two CLRCs. During training, these schools prepare school improvement plans and implement the plan fully to perform their best. These things have a very huge impact on the teaching and learning process and, besides checking dropouts, this initiative has brought the past drop outs back to school.

Children, as well as teachers, are getting full benefit from these centres and are enjoying the interactive and activity based teaching process due to the providence of these things. During my occasional visit to Thar, I see these active children with broad smiles on their faces busy in learning activities. AWARE not only runs such centres but also mobilises the communities that approach the concerned authorities to make the schools in the public sector functional. These nongovernmental organisations cannot replace the government but they can create islands of excellence to be emulated by the government and philanthropists


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