Approximately 10.5 million children from low-income families are forced into child labour in Pakistan. The Paid to Learn program was launched in 2002 to educate working children from urban slums across Pakistan and ran for 18 years.
This was an accelerated two-year course which provided primary education to children employed as street vendors, store or factory helpers or auto-repair workers across Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. As an incentive for the children and to make up for the loss of money due to skipping work, the children were paid a scholarship stipend on completion of every term.
The Paid to Learn program envisioned helping working children find a path out of a tough life of labour through education.
The goal of the program was to empower children with basic literacy and numeracy, and where possible, help them transition from non-formal education to a mainstream school.
Regional academic coordinators recruited working children from the streets of major slums In Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi after speaking with their parents and employers. Once registered as students, the children were taught an accelerated course covering primary education in two years and 2 months.
The program also sponsored the continuing education of top graduates who were encouraged to enroll in mainstream secondary schools, covering their admissions and monthly fee, as well as the cost of their textbooks, stationery and uniforms.
Implementation of the project started with regional academic coordinators recruiting working children from the streets of major slums in Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi after speaking with their parents and employers. Once registered as students, the children were taught an accelerated course covering primary education in two years and two months.
The program also facilitated its top graduates who were encouraged to enroll in mainstream secondary schools, covering their admissions and monthly fee, as well as the cost of their textbooks, stationery and uniforms.
The program enrolled over 6000 children, who previously spent most of their days toiling in car-repair shops, street markets, cottage industries, general stores or as domestic servants. With almost 900 working children being educated by the program at any given time, the program was able to graduate 5000 children from the primary education course. Several of our graduates have gone on to do well in mainstream private secondary schools, ending up completing their Matriculation and aspiring to enroll in college in order to get better jobs and have successful lives.
Some of our key lessons from the program were as follows:
While we decided to focus on government school reform to bring about mass change, the Paid to Learn program will always remain close to our hearts. Before moving on, our regional academic coordinators placed our graduates into private secondary schools and worked with school management to ensure that their education will be supported through Matriculation free of cost. As we continue to hear from some of our graduates who have gone on finish high school or even college and university and will share their updates with you.