Cell Phones Boost Pakistan's Literacy, Economy

A pilot program in Pakistan has demonstrated the effectiveness of pushing mass literacy through the use of cell phone text messaging capability. The five-month experiment, initiated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), targeted 250 females aged 15 to 24 years old in three districts of Pakistan's Punjab province. In this pilot project which successfully concluded last month, the participant who have just completed the basic literacy course, were given a mobile phone each. They received three text messages a day in the local language. They were required to practice reading and writing the messages in their work book and reply to their teachers by text.



The success of this mass literacy initiative augurs well in a country like Pakistan, where the mobile phone penetration is among the highest in the developing world, and the number of mobile subscribers has rocketed from less than 2 million to more than 94 million (58% penetration) from 2002 to 2009. It is also significant because Pakistan also has the dubious distinction of having the fourth largest number of illiterate adults in the world, after India, China and Bangladesh, according to a recently released UNESCO report. India and Pakistan also have the worst gender gaps in literacy rates, exceeding 22%.



The Daily Galaxy website has reported that a project, called Celedu, is starting its work in some rural villages in India, but hopes to expand far beyond that. Its initial offerings include cellphone-based games and quizzes that can teach basic literacy skills. For example, a child in India can play a game of Snakes and Ladders on the phone by answering multiple-choice questions about which words begin with a particular letter in the Hindi alphabet. Each correct answer allows the child's marker to advance through the game board, providing a fun and competitive approach to learning the written language.

"The biggest disease in India is illiteracy," which affects 400 million people there, says team member Rafael de Cardenas of Sloan. A PC-based version of the program, called Tele Akshar, "has already taught 54,000 women in 300 villages," he says, and the cellphone version should be able to reach far more people, according to Daily Galaxy.

In addition to education and healthcare, access to financial services has been fairly limited in Pakistan, particularly for the rural poor. The total banking sector serves around 6 million borrowers and 25 million depositors, implying a penetration rate of 3.6 percent and 15 percent respectively. In terms of access to microfinance, which means the availability of small loans, micro deposits and micro-insurance services to low income households, the current penetration rate is only 10 percent. In other words, 85 percent of Pakistan's population does not have access to any financial services at all, which inherently creates an uneven and an inequitable economic world, where the majority of people are financially marginalized. This situation drives the poor to rely on informal sources of funding like the unscrupulous moneylender, where the calculus of the relationship works to the detriment of the borrower. Well regulated banking and microfinance sectors are, therefore, absolutely necessary to give hope to the poor in breaking the vicious cycle of dependence and poverty.

Now, a number of telecom operators have now joined hands with financial institutions to extend the reach of financial services to the previously un-served masses, according to Babar Bhatti who operates "State of Telecom Industry" website. A successful example is Easypaisa, a telenor and Tameer Microfinance Bank joint offering that offers quick and easy remittance capability for the migrant workers wanting to send money to their loved ones.

The dramatic growth of cell phone usage in the developing world has created tremendous opportunities to deliver some of the basic ingredients of human development to the people, including education and health care. It has spawned a whole new field of research called "Information and Communication Technologies For Development" abbreviated as ICT4D. The UNESCO female literacy pilot helps establish some credibility for the advocates of ICT4D.

At MIT's Legatum Center, whose director Iqbal Quadir was the founder of Bangladesh's GrameenPhone, improving the delivery of health care in rural areas has been one major focus of their research efforts. Patients in a remote village, for example, now may have to spend a whole day or more traveling to the nearest clinic in order to be tested, diagnosed and receive treatment or a prescription drug for their health problems. But a new open-source software system developed by students who formed a nonprofit company called Moca could provide a faster way, according to a report in Daily Galaxy.

Using a menu of questions downloaded to a cellphone - and, if necessary, a picture taken with the phone's built in camera - a patient can transmit enough information to a doctor or nurse in a remote location to get a preliminary diagnosis, and to find out whether the condition warrants a trip to the clinic or not. "In developing countries, 80 percent of all physicians are in urban areas," while most of the people live in the countryside, according to Moca team member Richard Lu, an MIT graduate student in biomedical informatics.

A GSM Association study conducted by Deloitte and Touche in 2007 estimated that the mobile industry created 220,000 high-paying jobs in Pakistan and accounted for 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and approximately 6% of the total taxes collected by the Central Board of Revenue. The study also found that Pakistan’s economy and society is benefiting from rising mobile phone usage and low tariffs, which lowers the cost of doing business and improves productivity, while helping families and friends to connect to each other at home and abroad.



Several studies by ICT4D researchers in Pakistan and other developing nations have concluded that the use of cell phones have helped reduce poverty and improve incomes of small vendors and service providers, such as beauticians, fishermen, taxi drivers, delivery people and small shopkeepers.

As the mobile broadband roll-out with WiMax, 3G and EVDO takes off in Pakistan, the mobile internet can become a reality, opening up vast opportunities for delivering more advanced capabilities for education, health care and business for the ordinary people. The availability of more powerful and inexpensive entry level smart phones and applications will help as well.

One example of telemedicine efforts is a Cisco project in Pakistan, where a trial combines satellite and WiMAX connectivity to mobile units to provide earlier cancer screening to rural patients.

Many critics and cynics have long dismissed the growing use of cell phones in Pakistan as just a waste of time and money. Based on the efforts of ICT4D believers, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that the mobile phone in developing world could prove to be a an extremely useful tool providing a huge boost for human development, productivity and prosperity of the people at the bottom of the pyramid.

Related Links:

Poverty Reduction Through Telecom Access

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

Pakistan Tops Text Message Growth

WiMax Rollout in Pakistan

Mobile Internet in Pakistan

Low Literacy Threatens Pakistan's Future

Gender Gap in South Asia

Mobile Financial Services in Pakistan

Financial Services in Pakistan

Distance Learning in Pakistan

Top 5 ICT4D Trends in 2010

ICT4D in Pakistani Hospital

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
In a recently published book "Superfreakonomics", the authors cite two American economists' finding that cable TV in 2700 households empowered Indian women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept daughter in school. Here are some more highlight from the book about India:

1. If women could choose their birthplace, India might not a wise choice to be born.

2. In spite of recent economic success and euphoria about India, the people of India remain excruciatingly poor.

3. Literacy is low, corruption is high.

4. Only half the households have electricity.

5. Only one in 4 Indian homes has a toilet.

6. 40% of families with girls want to have more children, but families with boys do not want a baby girl.

7. It's especially unlucky to be born female, baby boy is like a 401 K retirement plan, baby girl requires a dowry fund.

8. Smile train Chennai did cleft repair surgery. A man was asked how many children he had. He said had 1, a boy. It turned out that he had 5 daughters which he did not mention.

9. Indian midwives paid $2.50 to kill girl with cleft deformity

10. Girls are highly undervalued, there are 35 million fewer females than males, presumed dead, killed by midwife or parent or starved to death. Unltrasound are used mainly to find and destroy female fetuses. Ultrasound and abortion are available even in the smallest villages with no electricity or clean water

11. If not aborted, baby girls face inequality and cruelty at every turn,

12. 61% of Indian men say wife beating is justified, 54% women agree, especially when dinner is burned or they leave home without husband's permission.

13. Unwanted pregnancies, STDs, HIV infections happen when 15% o the condoms fail. Indian council of med research found that 60% of Indian men's genitalia are too small by international standards.

14. Indian laws to protect women are widely ignored. The government has tried monetary rewards to keep baby girls and supported microfinance for women. NGOs programs, smaller condoms, other projects have had limited success.

15. People had little interest in State TV due to poor reception or boring programs. But cable television has helped women, as 150 million people between 2001-2006 got cable
TV which gave exposure to world.

16. American economists found that the effect of TV in 2700 households empowered women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept daughter in school.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan could replace India as the biggest recipient of British bilateral aid, according to the Guardian newspaper:

Britain is to stop sending direct aid to Burundi and Niger, two of the world's poorest countries, the government announced as it unveiled plans to rebalance the £8.4bn international development budget.

The two African nations, which are ranked second and fourth respectively in a World Bank list of the world's poorest states, are among 16 countries that will no longer receive bilateral aid from Britain by 2016. Direct aid will also be halted to Lesotho which is ranked 28th on the World Bank list.

Burundi, a landlocked country in the unstable Great Lakes region of Africa, is still suffering from the consequences of the Hutu-Tutsi massacres in the 1990s when 200,000 of its citizens died. Niger, a landlocked country in west Africa, depends on foreign aid for half of the government's budget.

The cuts were outlined to MPs by Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, as he unveiled the conclusions of two reviews into Britain's bilateral and multilateral aid programmes. Cutting aid to the 16 countries would allow Britain to concentrate its resources on 27 countries which include Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Africa.
---------
Ethiopia will become the biggest recipient of bilateral aid over the next two years. Pakistan could become the biggest recipient of British aid within three years, with a major focus on education, British officials in Islamabad said, but only if the government reduces chronic corruption.

Just 56% of Pakistani children between five and nine years' old attend primary school, a rate that British officials want to boost to the world average of 87%. But the school system is chronically dysfunctional due to political interference, "ghost schools" and unqualified teachers. "It's an education emergency," said one official.

As well as reducing graft, British officials want to see Pakistan increase its tax collection, currrently at a disastrously low rate of nine per cent of GDP with many parliamentarians paying little tax. The Pakistani government has vowed to improve education spending from two per cent GDP to seven per cent.

British officials said they recognised that British aid was a "drop in the bucket" in a country of 180 million people, but hoped that a targeted aid programme could "catalyse change" in critical areas like education.

Direct financial transfers to the Pakistani exchequer, which amounted to £120 million over four years under the last aid programme, are likely to be scrapped, officials said.
Riaz Haq said…
UN World Food Program's initiative to provide free food and cooking oil to school children is persuading poor families to send their daughters to school in Pakistan, according to a news report:

The program has already noted success in a 62% increase in girls' attendance in the last decade.

"This is really a big help. In these times when things are so expensive, receiving [cooking] oil free of charge is a real bonus," Fareeda Bibi mentioned while placing the four-litre fortified oil tin by her tiny stove.

A tin of oil costs Rs 450 [US$5.5], and Fareeda needs at least three a month to cook for her family of eight.

"My husband earns Rs 5,000 [$61] a month as a carpenter, so our budget is tight. Over Rs 1,000 [$12.2] goes towards utility bills; we spend nearly 2,500 [$30.5] on food and then there are new shoes to be bought for the children or medical bills to pay for my parents-in-law. Every little bit that comes in free in such hard times is a bonus."

Fareeda's daughter Shama receives the oil at her school in Dera Ghazi Khan District in Pakistan's Punjab Province every month as part of a UN World Food Programme (WFP) operation run in conjunction with the government.

"The incentive is mainly to increase enrolment and keep the girls in school. The assistance is only given in girls' primary schools in Punjab. However, in NWFP [North West Frontier Province], Balochistan and Sindh, we have included boys as well," said Amjad Jamal, a WFP spokesman.

The programme had increased girls' enrolment by 25% and attendance by 62%
since 1998, said Marcelo Spinahering of WFP Pakistan. "Children are given high energy biscuits for onsite feeding in certain parts of the country. For the most part they receive take-home rations of four litres of fortified edible oil on a monthly basis and 50kg of wheat on a quarterly basis," he added.

Attitudes changing?

Fareeda said the school feeding programme had also played a part in persuading male members of her family to allow Shama to go to school, just like her two brothers.

"When they say there is no need to educate girls because they will never need to earn a living, I point out the oil we receive helps us run the house, and then they fall silent," Fareeda said, adding: "Of course it is very important to us that our daughter is being educated. I am not literate and this handicaps me."

Noor Bibi, the mother of another young schoolgirl said: "Even though we pay no fees at government schools, my husband says we spend too much on uniforms and books." The oil bonus helps 'balance' this, and she hopes to double the gains in a few years time when her two-year-old daughter is enrolled.

Fozia Hina, deputy district officer for Dera Ghazi Khan sub-district, said: "In areas such as ours, which is largely underdeveloped, parents do not like sending girls out of the house, even to school. Traditionally girls do not leave the home of their parents or husbands. Since the [cooking] oil incentive began several years ago more parents are eager to enrol kids. Mothers are keen to enrol even four-year-old girls."...

http://southasia.oneworld.net/todaysheadlines/pakistantake-home-rations-brings-girls-to-schools
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an interesting World Bank blog post on use of sms in learning:

The team in Pakistan is asking all sorts of interesting questions as part of their work. How can the potential impact of each message be maximized, especially given that these messages constitute just one small part of a large stream of messages -- cricket scores, notes from friends and family, jokes, news items, scripture passages and horoscope advice -- that students receive every day? What is best learned or reinforced through such interactions? What are the most effective ways to sequence and scaffold such messages over time?

In the process, much user-related information is being collected, helping to answer some basic questions for which there are not yet good, reliable data:


How many young students have phones?

How many can afford to participate in education-related activities via mobile phone -- and are willing to do so?
(Related to this: Are there ways to subsidize SMS traffic for various populations? And what if people actual respond to the SMS quizzes -- can this sort of thing at scale?)


Vocabulary-building and grammar quizzes are just two potential applications possible as part of this sort of SMS-based interaction; opportunities for quizzes in various academic areas are easily imagined. This could be great for test preparation, for example -- a potentially fertile market for private firms in Pakistan. Indeed, project proponents hope to use this as a way to help to stimulate private sector activity and innovation in this area, especially for young entrepreneurs, given what have turned out to be very low piloting costs.

The software they are using for all of this is home grown; the hope is to eventually open source it so that others interested in doing this sort of thing don't have to start from scratch. (Similar efforts are underway in other parts of the world -- FrontlineSMS:Learn has been piloted in neighboring Afghanistan, to cite just one example.)

In addition to the potential utility of the messages themselves, the people behind this project see potential value in establishing a 'relationship' between government and its constituents and key stakeholders. Are there possibilities here for government to learn using SMS, they wonder? If a relationship via test message is established during schooling between students and education authorities, can government remain engaged with students after graduation, continuing to provide targeted informal education services as might be useful?

As my World Bank colleague Zubair Khurshid Bhatti notes, "Engagement with student and parents is critical for improved governance of the tertiary education sector. Governance possibilities are also huge for primary and secondary schools, where very large percentages of parents and school committee members have access to phones. This project starts to put in place some of the architecture to help support interactive targeted communication with the real beneficiaries."

Based on early returns from the pilot, the Provincial Education Department of the Government of the Punjab is showing active interest in exploring these sorts of activities further, and the project principals are already planning to expand the scope of their activities. Why not try sending SMSs to parents, they ask, challenging them to pose a question to their children, based on something that was meant to be on the curriculum for that week? This would, in a very small, modest way, alert parents to what students are supposed to be learning. If students don't know the answer, this may trigger parents to push their kids more, and/or to question whether the school is doing a good job in this area (including whether or not the official curriculum is being followed at all!).


http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/sms-education-pakistan
Riaz Haq said…
UNESCO expands mobile phone literacy program in Pakistan:

The project, the fruit of a partnership between UNESCO, Mobilink Pakistan and Pakistani NGO, the BUNYAD Foundation of Lahore, was launched last year.

The five-month pilot project involved 250 adolescent female learners who were given mobile phones and who received interesting and informative daily text messages in Urdu which they were expected to respond to. The programme was conducted with the help of 10 teachers enlisted by the NGO.

Participants were subsequently evaluated to assess gains in knowledge and learning. At the start of the programme, 57per cent of the girls were graded C and only 28 per cent of the girls managed to score an A. Near the end of the pilot the situation had reversed with more than 60 per cent of girls awarded an A and C grades dropping to 11 per cent.

UNESCO and partners have expanded the programme to include another 1,250 girls in rural areas of four districts of Punjab.

Warren Mellor, Country Director UNESCO said that modern technology could help achieve the goal of universal literacy. He said Pakistan was a signatory to the Dakar Framework of Action for EFA in April, 2000 and has committed to achieving an 86 per cent literacy rate by 2015.

Mr Rashid Khan, President and CEO of Mobilink, said those taking part had shown a marked improvement in their literacy skills and confidence.

“The cell phone holds the key to social development by its very nature and we want to make sure that women are part of this revolution,” he said.


http://www.unesco.org/en/literacy/dynamic-content-single-view/news/expansion_of_womens_literacy_by_mobile_phone_programme/back/11922/cHash/29d9528978/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a GSM study on how mobile phones are helping boost rural health in Pakistan:

Mobilink partnered up with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),
Ministry of Health (MoH) and GSMA Development Fund to deliver an
innovative pilot project which aims to bring low cost mobile handsets and
shared access to voice (PCOs) to LHWs in remote parts of the country.
Mobilink hopes to bridge the communication gap between the LHW and their
ability to access emergency health care.

Mobilink and its stakeholders are eager to
demonstrate how mobile phones play a
critical role in maternal care resulting in
better healthcare of patients. In order to
address the lack of connectivity to basic
health services and reduce maternal and
infant mortality; LHWs are being provided
with a communication tool for timely
referral of patients to seven (7) points of
connectivity i.e. Assistant District Coordinator
(ADC), Lady Health Supervisor (LHS),
District Health Quarter (DHQ), Tehsil Head
Quarter (THQ), Rural Health Center (RHC),
Ambulance Driver and 24/7 Private Hospital.
The project is being piloted in the districts of
Chakwal and Muzaffargarh in the Province
of Punjab. These districts were identified by
the Ministry of Health (MoH) with technical
assistance from UNFPA.
The pilot project for the LHWs includes a
low-cost phone bundled with a prepaid
SIM card and a Mobilink PCO. The solution
is to roll-out the Mobilink PCO (Option
1) in Chakwal and low cost Nokia handset
(Option 2) in Muzaffargarh to 242 LHWs.
In addition, desktop phones with prepaid
SIM cards are provided to each DHQ, THQ
and RHC. This intervention is improving
communication for timely referral of patients
and allowing the Lady Health Supervisors
to monitor the activities of LHWs more
efficiently. Additionally, the Mobilink PCO is
providing an extra source of income for the
LHW, empowering women and improving
their status amongst communities.

The Potential Impacts…
Improving LHWs communication ability so
delays in accessing emergency healthcare are
reduced:
100,000 LHWs can • cover a population
of 15 million households potentially
impacting the lives of 90 million people
all across Pakistan and achieving
universal health coverage in rural areas
across the country.
• For the pilot project, approx. 250,000
LHW catchment population in more than
45 villages benefit from this solution for
general healthcare.
• For the pilot project, approx. 40,000
married women of child bearing age
and 10,000 pregnant ladies for maternal
and neonatal health care get immediate
attention through the LHW.
• The solution provides a timely
deduction/referral of cases via the
effective use of mobile technology to
reduce maternal and neonatal mortality
• LHWs have a positive impact upon the
economic stability and well-being of the
community that she serves.
• Mobile communications improve the
status, mobility and equality of women
– as a Lady Health Worker and as a
Village Phone operator.
• LHW, through the Mobilink PCO earn
an additional source of income resulting
in women empowerment, and increase
in social status.
• LHW act as a role model for other women
in their community.


http://www.gsm.org/documents/lady_health_worker_pakistan.pdf
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Brookings Inst paper on mobile phones are helping increase female literacy in Pakistan:

In the small village of Hafizibad in Pakistan’s Punjab province, a young girl is using her mobile phone to send an SMS message in Urdu to her teacher. After sending, she receives messages from her teacher in response, which she diligently copies by hand in her notebook to practice her writing skills. She does this from the safety of her home, and with her parents’ permission, during the school break, which is significant due to the insecurity of the rural region in which she lives. The girl is part of a Mobilink-UNESCO program to increase literacy skills among girls in Pakistan. Initial outcomes look positive; after four months, the percentage of girls who achieved an A level on literacy examinations increased from 27 percent to 54 percent. Likewise, the percentage of girls who achieved a C level on examinations decreased from 52 percent to 15 percent. The power of mobile phone technology, which is fairly widespread in Pakistan, appears in this case to help hurdle several education barriers by finding new ways to support learning for rural girls in insecure areas—girls who usually have limited opportunities to attend school and who frequently do not receive individual attention when they do. Often they live in households with very few books or other materials to help them retain over summer vacation what they learned during the school year.

http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2012/01_education_technology_winthrop.aspx
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt from Express Tribune on rapid growth of mobile banking in Pakistan:

Sharing statistics of SBP, Anwar said value of branchless banking transactions reached Rs79,410 million during the last quarter. Total number of branchless banking accounts have increased to 929,184, he said, while branchless banking deposits have grown to Rs503 million.

SBP introduced branchless banking regulations in 2008. He further said around 80 million branchless banking transactions of Rs300 billion have been executed in Pakistan. “I am expecting a surge in the number of access points to over 50,000 very soon,” he said. Total volume (number) of transactions has jumped to 20.6 million during the October to December 2011, Anwar said. The average number daily transactions has increased to 228,855, he added.

The average size of branchless banking transactions, Anwar said, is Rs3,855 which shows that mobile phone technology and agent-based banking are providing financial services to unbanked poor.

While talking about the benefits of branchless banking, he said, rural customers will no longer be required to travel long distances. He further said a large proportion of population – which is unbanked – has been heavily reliant on cash-based transactions, thus causing a negative impact on documentation of the economy, the tax-base, efficiency of economic transactions, etc.

Representatives of the world’s leading software providers gave detailed presentations and discussed case studies on how mobile banking has succeeded in other emerging as well as developed markets.

Mobile banking is the only way forward, said Mathew Talbot, Senior Vice President, Mobile Commerce Sybase 365 – which was recently acquired by SAP. Pakistan is one of the fastest developing markets for branchless banking in the world, he said, which is why Sybase is here.

Sybase provides technologies to banks, which enable the latter to have full control of their bank accounts and make transactions through mobile device regardless of their location. It creates opportunities for bringing the unbanked and under-banked segments of the society into the financial network.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/350701/pakistan-rated-among-fastest-growing-markets-in-mobile-banking/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Guardian report on increasing enrollment in Pakistan's FATA region:

Bajaur, one of the seven administrative units in Pakistan's federally administered tribal area (Fata), on the border with Afghanistan, has experienced a marked rise in school enrolment since the beginning of the year. "Enrolment has increased and this year we enrolled 39,000 new students," says Muhammad Gul, an education officer in Bajaur. "Yet 80,000 remain out of school."

Gul believes poverty and illiteracy can be a potent combination in fuelling extremism. "If these kids don't have a pen in their hands, they will grow up and take up the Kalashnikov," he says.

Part of the reason for the increased level of enrolment in the area is the return of families displaced by conflict in 2008-09. Around 250,000 people were still displaced from Bajaur at the end of 2009, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. But for many the incentive is the ration of four litres of cooking oil (worth around £3, or just under $5) distributed every second month by the World Food Programme's (WFP) Back to School, Stay in School programme. To obtain the oil ration, students – who also receive locally manufactured high-energy biscuits daily from the WFP – must attend school 22 days each month.

The scheme was launched in January 2011 in Fata and all four provinces of Pakistan, but funding problems mean it is now limited to government-run schools in Fata (excluding North Waziristan, where the WFP is not working due to conflict). WFP spokesman Amjad Jamal says the programme has a two-pronged strategy: to address short-term hunger and nutritional deficiencies, and increase enrolment and retain those already in school. The WFP has been engaged in school feeding in Pakistan since 1968. Gul says that, of Bajaur's 616 schools, 435 (of which 135 are girls' schools) receive WFP help, benefiting 60,000 children. "Some areas are difficult to reach still and thus left out from the loop," he admits.

"We are seeking to make life easier for returnees by helping to ensure the provision of health and education," says Jamal. The NGO is supporting more than 990 schools, and 130,000 children take home the ration. The current programme ends in December, but will be renewed until 2015.

According to the International Crisis Group (pdf), there were around 4,660 primary schools, including 2,000 girls' schools, in Fata at the end of 2008. However, literacy remains low, and more than half of children who enrol in primary schools drop out before completing class five due to "poor quality of instruction, corporal punishment, teacher absenteeism, inaccessible locations and poorly maintained facilities, including shortages of furniture, clean drinking water and lavatories".

According to last year's national nutrition survey (pdf), 43.6% of Pakistani children under the age of five are stunted, 15.1% wasted, and 31.5% underweight. Approximately 32% are suffering from severe malnutrition, and 62.5% are anaemic.

Data collected by the directorate of education in Fata shows that, as of the end of March, 417 schools – including 133 for girls – had been blown up. Militants are still targeting educational institutions in the region, which is why parents are fearful of sending their children to school. However, Gul insists "poverty is a much bigger issue".

"Investing in the longer-term opportunities provided by education is not a consideration," Jamal says. And in tribal areas in particular, female education is seen as a wasted investment both economically and culturally.
..


http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/aug/09/pakistan-fata-area-increase-school-enrolment
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Carnegie Mellon University press release on Polly, an app for illiterate job seekers:

PITTSBURGH-A silly telephone game that became a viral phenomenon in Pakistan has demonstrated some serious potential for teaching poorly educated people about automated voice services and provided a new tool for them to learn about jobs, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Pakistan's Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).

The game, called Polly, is simplicity itself: a caller records a message and Polly adds funny sound effects, such as changing a male's voice to a female voice (or vice versa), or making the caller sound like a drunk chipmunk. The caller can then forward the message to one or more friends, who in turn can forward it along or reply to it.

Polly may not sound like a research project, but Roni Rosenfeld, professor in Carnegie Mellon's Language Technologies Institute, said it is pioneering the use of entertainment to reach illiterate and low-literate people and introduce them to the potential of telephone-based services. Such phone services could help non-affluent, poorly educated people find jobs, find or sell merchandise, become politically active, create speech-based mailing lists and even support citizen journalism.

But people can't use these services if they don't know how.

rosenfeldEven though most people in Pakistan have access to a phone, many don't understand the technology behind an automated telephone-based service, said Agha Ali Raza, a Ph.D. student in language technology and a native Pakistani. "They expect to talk to a person on the other end of the line," he explained. "When they hear, 'Press 1 to do this,' or 'Press 2 to do that,' they don't press anything; they just start talking."

With Polly, Rosenfeld, Raza and Umar Saif, an associate professor of computer science at LUMS, have shown that if the training is fun, people will not only learn how to use phone-based services, but will eagerly spread the word and even show each other how to use it. Polly was launched in Lahore, Pakistan in May 2012 by giving its phone number to five poor, low-skilled workers. By mid-September, 85,000 people had used it almost half a million times.

Though budget pressures forced researchers to begin limiting calls to Polly in September, the total number of users climbed to more than 160,000 people, including some non-Pakistanis, as of mid-April. Overall, the system has handled almost 2.5 million calls. The project continues to run.

razaWhat's more, Polly doesn't just deliver funny messages; it also includes job listings. "We daily scan Pakistani newspapers for advertisements for jobs that are appropriate for low-skilled, low-literate workers, record them in the local language and make them available for audio-browsing during the interaction with Polly," Rosenfeld said. As of mid-April, the ads had been listened to more than 380,000 times and had been forwarded more than 21,000 times.

Raza, the lead author, will present results of the research on May 1 at CHI 2013, the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, in Paris, where the report has received a Best Paper award.

Rosenfeld said the entertainment value of Polly helped it spread rapidly, but can't sustain it over time, noting game play dropped rapidly as its novelty wore off. But adding services, such as the job ads, can keep people calling in.

"We found that users took to the job information in large numbers and that many of them started calling Polly specifically for that service - exactly the result we had hoped for," he said....


http://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2013/april/april18_polly.html
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an ET story on literacy through text messaging:

For 1,500 women in Pakistan, an SMS message will soon be a tutor, textbook and school all rolled into one.
On Wednesday, Mobilink Foundation — a nonprofit organisation established by Mobilink in 2007 — and UNESCO signed an agreement to enhance their “SMS-based Literacy” programme.
The programme, which will now enter into a fourth phase, aims to educate 1,500 illiterate women in Punjab and Sindh using tutorials that will be sent via text messages in Urdu. At least 4,000 women have previously benefited from the same programme.
In the latest phase, UNESCO has collaborated with government education departments and agencies to increase the project’s outreach. As a result, 500 male students at 20 centres in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will also be taking part.
The six-month initiative will be managed under Mobilink Foundation’s “mTaleem” scheme, which provides education to underprivileged communities across Pakistan.
Throughout the programme, the women, who will be selected by community-based nonprofit organisations, will be given basic training on how to use mobile phones and practical hands-on experience.
The learning performance of the students will be tested using a special software developed by Mobilink.
During this phase, learners at 20 centres, namely Multan, Sahiwal, Okara, Thatta, Jacobabad and Shaheed Benazirabad will be participating in the programme. The phase also includes UNESCO’s initiative for the capacity building of rural female teachers, whereby 150 teachers in Islamabad will be trained about Early Childhood Education while 30 teachers in Multan, Sahiwal and Okara will learn about literacy and non-formal basic education.
UNESCO Islamabad Director Dr Kozue Kay Nagata said that the programme’s novel approach, while developing interest among the learners would also safeguard them from relapsing into illiteracy.
The mobile phones, however, contextualise the learning to suit modern day realities.
The phones can be used for sending and receiving text messages in the future, thereby helping the women retain the basic language skills they have learnt, said Nagata.
Incentives such as permanent ownership of the phone sets and free SMS from Mobilink for a fixed duration also fuel interest, she added.
Mobilink Corporate Communications Head Omar Manzur said the programme has also won the GSMA’s Global Mobile Award in the “Connected Life Awards” category and was acknowledged as the “Best Mobile Education or Learning Product or Service” in February this year.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/553079/sms-based-literacy-programme-education-may-be-just-a-text-message-away/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an Express Tribune story on Nawaz Sharif's launch of literacy movement in Pakistan:

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday unveiled plans to launch a countrywide literacy movement to ensure the enrollment of every child in school, with aims to allocate four per cent of GDP on education by 2018.
“Our effort is to achieve the targets, set by Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within the coming three years.”
Among the targets set by UNESCO is to increase resources for the education sector to reach four per cent of GDP by the year 2018, Nawaz said as he inaugurated the international conference on ‘Unfinished Agenda in Education: the Way Forward’.
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The prime minister said the government’s objective was to develop an education system which is compatible with the requirements of a knowledge-based economy.
Nawaz stressed that focus is needed on science and technology and developing modern skills in the education system, besides calling for prioritisation of female education in education policy, effective participation of women in the decision-making process and to protect their respect and dignity.
“For Pakistan, education was not merely a matter of priority, but it is the future of Pakistan, which lies in its educated youth.
“It has, in fact, become a national emergency. More than half of the country’s population is below 25 years of age. With proper education and training, this huge reservoir of human capital can offer us an edge in the race for growth and prosperity in the age of globalisation. Without education, this resource can turn into a burden,” the prime minister said.
With low budget allocations for education a primary concern, along with a very high number of out of school children, high drop-out rates, gender disparity, low literacy rate, realising the MDGs and EFA targets was a priority.
Not forgetting the 18th amendment, Nawaz said that despite education being a provincial subject, there was national consensus on the need for reform and modernisation of the country’s educational system to bring it at par with the national priorities and international standards.
“I believe that education is not an expense, but an investment into the future. Rather, it is the best investment an individual, parent or nation can make.”
In this regard, he directed the Planning Commission to give education top priority in their Vision 2025 programme.
Private sector plays key role
Nawaz noted the contribution of the private sector to education in Pakistan.
“Out of the 14.4 million primary stage enrolments, 4.8 million i.e. 34 per cent are enrolled in private sector schools. Private sector share is much higher at the lower, middle and secondary levels,” the prime minister added.
Lauding the role of UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, religious institutions, delivery agents, and donors’ community, he invited everyone to join the government in its mission to educate and train Pakistan’s youth.
“I have no doubt that they can turn around all our challenges into opportunities. They also have the potential to contribute immensely and positively to world peace and prosperity.”
Sharing his views on successful democratic transition in Pakistan, the prime minister dreamed of a Pakistan where every citizen gets educated in the real sense and thereby contributes to the development of the country.
$340 million for education
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He said the passage of pre-requisite laws by the provincial assemblies was a good step and added that the international community also received and responded to the government’s message showing its resolve to get every child in school by 2015.
Brown said the global partnership for education had committed $100 million, the USAID $140 million and the European community $100 million, besides support from Saudi Arabia, United Nations and other countries....


http://tribune.com.pk/story/688836/literacy-movement-4-gdp-for-education-by-2018-vows-nawaz/

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