GOING WHERE THE NEED IS GREATEST

Succeeding Against the Odds

AKU helped increase enrolment and enhance learning for both girls and boys in local schools in Pakistan’s Diamer District despite a history of limited literacy and minimal schooling, especially for girls.


Located in Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan, Diamer District has a 25 per cent literacy rate and a tradition of resisting outside efforts to improve education. Over the last decade, this conservative area has witnessed the destruction of more than a dozen girls’ schools and suffered a number of terrorist attacks, making it a no-go zone for many organizations.

Yet the University’s Institute for Educational Development in Pakistan and its Professional Development Centre, North had notable success in changing minds and practices in Diamer, working with other agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network as part of a project funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Education Development and Improvement Programme (EDIP) worked in 109 schools across Gilgit-Baltistan. At the 11 Diamer schools that were part of the project, enrolment increased by 20 per cent. At seven girls’ schools, enrolment grew by 50 per cent. In 2014, the top three scores on annual examinations in the district were posted by students from an EDIP school, and winners of the district’s Best Teacher and Best Student awards have come from EDIP schools.

“Had you told me before that one of our problems for girls’ teachers in Diamer would be overutilization, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Sumaira Bibi, a teacher who received training as part of the project. “Now the entire community is pushing for more, for both their boys and girls.” How did AKU do it? By partnering with the Gilgit-Baltistan Department of Education, the Diamer District Education Office and the Gilgit-Baltistan  Police Department. And by taking the time to build trust throughout the community, including with parents, whose engagement and support of teachers were key.

In total, 395 educators and school management committee members from Diamer participated in 30 workshops and training sessions covering a wide range of subjects, including innovative pedagogies, inclusive education, mathematics, social studies, English, Urdu, biology, physics, chemistry and computer skills. Meanwhile, schools received thousands of chairs and uniforms, as well as books, computers and a variety of supplies. Undoubtedly there is a very long way to go in Diamer. But with EDIP’s success, AKU and its partners have shown that it is possible to improve education in one of the world’s most challenging contexts.