Supporting primary education provision in Sindh

We provided technical assistance and monitoring to the SENSA programme, which supported NGOs providing full cycle primary education to poorest children in Sindh, Pakistan

Sindh Education Non-State Actors (SENSA) programme supported three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide a full cycle of primary education for up to 52,000 of Sindh’s poorest children in marginalised communities. HANDS, The Citizens Foundation (TCF), and the Family Educational Services Foundation (FESF) implemented the programme.

Students that were either enrolled in these NGOs’ primary schools in Sindh or identified as suitable for enrolment under the Education Fund for Sindh (EFS) programme between 2012–2016 were determined to be eligible for enrolment in SENSA schools. SENSA worked in urban districts of Karachi, Hyderabad, and Sukkur and in rural districts of Thatta, Tando Allahyar, Qamber Shahdadkot, and Khairpur.

As the Technical Assistance and Management Organisation (TAMO) from 2016 – 2021, we provided technical assistance and third-party monitoring to the programme. We supported the NGOs through technical assistance activities in teacher training, teacher competency, learning assessment systems, and qualitative research to improve teaching quality and learning outcomes.

The key objectives of the programme were to improve:

  • equitable access to education in target districts,
  • attendance in target districts,
  • provision of quality education to all supported children, and
  • Effective management, delivery, and verification of the programme

The challenge

SENSA navigated substantial challenges throughout its life. The Non-Formal Education (NFE) component of the programme previously operated by BRAC came to an abrupt halt in March 2019 due to closure of BRAC operations in Pakistan. This proved a significant challenge for programme continuation. We provided hands-on support to FCDO to review the NFE component of the programme and build a system for handing over to a new NGO - HANDS. We assisted FCDO in short-listing and selecting relevant NGOs. Moreover, we advised HANDS on school opening and mobilisation strategy that supported the programme to be successfully handed over to HANDS and helped in reopening of all schools with relatively low dropout of students.

In light of Covid-19 school closure in March 2020, the programme faced another challenge as in the last year of implementation the NGOs found it very difficult to continue operation in marginalised, low-income areas with no physical student interaction. We supported HANDS in building a distance learning programme and content to engage students at home and maintain a high retention rate. We also supported FESF in building content for their distance learning model.

We successfully designed a phone-based monitoring solution for both NGOs that has been effective in verifying new activities and approach as programmes switched back and forth from distance learning to physical learning activities. Our adaptive programming support to FCDO allowed both programmes to thrive through a distance learning model which was highly appreciated by peers and stakeholders.

Our approach

Each NGO in the SENSA programme had a different approach towards teaching and learning:

  • BRAC set-up over 1,000 one-classroom non-formal schools within low-income, marginal communities which were operated by HANDS after BRAC shut down in March 2019
  • TCF’s schools are purpose-built within communities, and provided formal primary education aligned with international best practice
  • FESF taught a formal primary curriculum to children with severe to profound hearing difficulties through Pakistan Sign Language (PSL)

Our role was to perform third party monitoring of the programme using a robust monitoring methodology that included baseline verification of all students and monthly representative sample monitoring of each NGO model. We also provided physical verification of all enrolled students as and when necessary using an agreed methodology that ensured transparency.

In addition, we supported the technical assistance for HANDS and FESF to build capacity of teachers and improve teaching and learning outcomes. Research was conducted annually to develop a deeper understanding of the key issues on the ground. We conducted a needs analysis and built pedagogical frameworks for teaching and learning assistance. This rigorous review was used to support the NGOs in:

  • Design and implementation of teacher training content and activities;
  • formative assessment design and implementation;
  • design and implementation of a teacher competency framework including teacher written tests, observation guide and staff review protocol;
  • Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey to measure progress in student outcomes against provincial averages;
  • Covid-19 distance learning response planning; and
  • distance learning model for HANDS in light of Covid-19.

Outcomes and wider impacts

Over 50,000 students completed primary school through the NGOs part of SENSA between 2016-21. Students completing primary education through BRAC/HANDS achieved a higher transition rate to secondary education than the enrolment rates in middle schools both in Sindh and nationally. SENSA supported students consistently performed better on ASER assessments and learning than provincial Sindh averages.

With schools closed due to Covid-19, learning activities continued with various online and distance approaches to teaching, learning, and content development. We continued monitoring the programme through phone verifying activities, acquiring parental feedback and ensured teacher engagement.

We would like to thank Faisal Shams Khan and Ayesha Fazlur Rahman for their work throughout the project as external consultants.

Areas of expertise