The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the education system in Pakistan. Established in 1995, TCF is now one of the country’s leading organizations in education that has established 455 purpose-built schools nationwide with an enrollment of about 55,000 students. TCF encourages gender diversity in their schools by ensuring 50% female enrollment and a full female faculty. The overarching vision of this NGO is to bring a positive change to Pakistan by providing quality education to the country’s less-privileged youth, [also see a similar news post this week on Pakistan’s education system]. CHUP interviewed Bushra Tayyeb of The Citizens Foundation, who commented on the organization’s goals and achievements within the overarching context of Pakistan’s education reform and development. [Image from TCF’s website, see above link].
Q: The Citizens Foundation (TCF) has established 455 purpose-built schools throughout Pakistan with an enrollment of about 55,000 students. How does the organization decide where to build these schools? Are there particular regions or areas that TCF generally targets?
The sites we take up are 70% donor driven and the rest are taken up on ‘as per need’ basis in those areas where we already have a certain number of schools and feel that there is need for expansion. Also, once a site has been taken up as requested by our donors, we try and develop that area for more schools so that they become logistically manageable for TCF.
Q: TCF also ensures a 50-50 ratio of male to female students at the time of admission in order to counter considerable gender disparaties in Pakistan’s education system. Given the social context of Pakistan’s gender gap, and that only 22 percent of girls in rural areas have completed primary level schooling, what difficulties or resistance has your organization faced in ensuring this 50-50 ratio?
So far no resistance as such to speak of. The odd areas do present a challenge but we have a system whereby counseling sessions are conducted with parents and communities to maximize enrollment of girls in TCF schools. In order to promote female enrollment of students in our schools, the teaching faculty comprises of female members only.
Q: What kinds of values does TCF attempt to instill in their education curricula? Given the sometimes negative perceptions associated with madrassa education, do TCF’s schools focus more on secular or religious education or a combination of the two? In Pakistan, can these two types of education be separated?
Our focus is totally on secular education and Islamiat is one of the subjects taught. We are NOT a madrassa school but an excellent alternative. Training is imparted to teachers in such a way that stress is laid on character building and developing a well-rounded personality.
Q: What is TCF’s greatest success in education reform and development? What message are we sending through this success?
We can’t boast of success until we have actually made a dent in our illiteracy levels. However, we do try and brush-up the curricula in way that suits the needs of our children. Our aim is to encourage people to come forward and help. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.