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Supporting primary education provision in Sindh



Sindh Education Non-State Actors programme (SENSA) supports three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide a full cycle of primary education for up to 52,000 of Sindh’s poorest children in marginalized communities. HANDS, The Citizens Foundation (TCF) and the Family Educational Services Foundation (FESF) are currently implementing 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 works 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 are providing technical assistance and third-party monitoring to the programme. We support 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 are 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 has navigated substantial challenges. 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. OPM 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. OPM provided FCDO assistance in short-listing and selecting relevant NGOs. Moreover, OPM 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 marginalized, 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 switch back and forth from distance learning to physical learning activities. OPM’s adaptive programming support to FCDO has allowed both programmes to thrive through a distance learning model which has been highly appreciated by peers and stakeholders.

Our Approach

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

  • BRAC set-up 1000 one-classroom non-formal schools within low-income, marginal communities which are now being operated by HANDS after BRAC shut down in March 2019
  • TCF’s schools are purpose-built within communities, and provide formal primary education aligned with international best practice
  • FESF teaches a formal primary curriculum to children with severe to profound hearing difficulties through Pakistan Sign Language (PSL)

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

In additional we have supported the technical assistance for HANDS and FESF to build capacity of teachers and improve teaching and learning outcomes. Research is 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 has been 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 42,000 students have completed primary school through the NGOs part of SENSA between 2016-19. Students completing primary education through BRAC/HANDS achieved a 75% average transition rate to secondary education, a figure significantly higher than enrolment rates in middle schools both in Sindh and nationally. SENSA supported students have consistently performed better on ASER assessments than provincial Sindh averages.

Learning activities have continued following school closures due to covid-19, with various online and distance approaches to teaching, learning, and content development. OPM has continued monitoring the programme through phone verifying activities, acquiring parental feedback and ensuring teacher engagement.