Citizenship Education

Empowerment and Equal Rights in Tando Allahyar

Tando Allahyar District, located in the rural areas of Sindh Province, has one of the lowest educational district rankings in the nation. However, one school in the remote and rural village of Tando Soomro stands in sharp contrast to the abysmal state of the public education sector in Pakistan. Because of STEP’s interventions in Government Girls Primary School – Tando Soomro through the Cluster Based Mentoring Programme (CBMP), the students in this school have attained exceptionally high levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities. The girls are motivated, eager to learn, and ambitious.

During a field visit to the district Tando Allahyar, several STEP project team members arrived unannounced at the school to observe classroom activities. Upon entering the school, to the surprise of the team members, the female students and teachers had rearranged the classroom and were busily engaged in an election voting skit. Two girls were sitting in the front, managing and leading the voting process. The other girls came to the table one by one, signed their names accordingly, had their thumbs marked with ink to indicate they had voted, and then proceeded to the ballot station to cast their votes. The purpose of this mock-voting activity was drawn from a textbook assignment to educate students on their rights as citizens and to actively engage in civic affairs. In a country where women in rural areas are still oppressed by archaic, feudal and gender discriminatory practices, teaching young students, and especially girls at an early age, how to vote, the importance of voting, and the value of democratic citizenship is a remarkable achievement. Through such activities, students begin to appreciate and understand the concept of democracy, equal rights to men and women, freedom, and civic engagement.

Moreover, the District Coordinator for Tando Allahyar Razia Begum shared that when Mentor Rehman Gul arrived to begin the workshops and trainings for the villages’ teachers, the village members prohibited the female teachers from interacting with the male mentor. Social and cultural norms of the village forbade interaction between females and males outside the family. The District Coordinator and Mentor immediately responded by arranging successive meetings and discussions, attempting to persuade them to consider otherwise, emphasising the value of quality education for their daughters. Eventually, the community elders were persuaded, and the female teachers began attending the training workshops. In the beginning, the teachers barely spoke up, shared their thoughts, or expressed their views during the workshops. However, over time, their confidence and self-esteem grew. Mentor Rehman Gul now states that the female teachers assertively express themselves and animatedly discuss and debate over educational issues.

The transformation of the community and school is evident in the student learning outcomes. The children are outspoken, bold, and confident. The girls’ learning achievements far exceed the standards for their grade-level in rural Sindh. Parents and community members have become more supportive of girls’ education and actively encourage their daughters to continue onwards for higher education. One can anticipate that upon completing their studies in several years, these young girls will be in a position to truly bring change to their village.