Islamabad: Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Margaret Adamson on the behalf of Australian Government announced to provide contribution of AU$6 million (approximatelyUS$4.5 million) for an education programme in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Frontier Regions (FR). The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will make sure to spend that amount in a three year programme for the betterment and infrastructures of girls’ education in the respective areas of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A ceremony In this regard jointly organized by WFP and SAFRON at Ministry of State and Frontier Regions here in Islamabad on Wednesday. Addressing on the occasion Minister of States and Frontier Regions, Abdul Qadir Baloch commended the support of WFP and said that the Government of Pakistan extends its gratitude to the Australian Government for its unshrinking support.
WFP Country Director Stephen Gluning on the occasion said, “We are very grateful to the people and Government of Australia for this contribution. The flexibility of this donation has allowed WFP to address the critical education needs in FATA and FR particularly for the returnee communities,” “There are alarming rates of illiteracy owing to high school drop-out rates among children, especially adolescent school girls. By providing extra incentives for parents to send girls to school, we can take a step towards women’s empowerment.”
Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Margaret Adamson said Australia had a long-standing history of working with the Government of Pakistan to provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by crisis. “Since 2010 Australia has provided more than AUD 95 million in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan, in partnership with the WFP, to support the victims of earthquakes, floods and displacement. Australia’s assistance has also helped provide nutrition to acute malnourished women and children, livelihood support and school feeding programmes,” High Commissioner Adamson said.
Under the programme, WFP will provide over 312,000 children with a mid-morning snack of High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) during the school day in 7 FATA agencies and 6 frontier regions. Providing children with snacks at school has proven to significantly increase children’s enrolment and retention rates in WFP assisted primary schools of FATA. Furthermore, WFP gives a monthly supply of vegetable oil fortified with Vitamins A and D to primary grade students who attend class regularly, as an extra incentive for parents to send children to school. The Australian contribution will be used for food-based assistance in the first year, while cash-based assistance will be added in the subsequent two years. Between 13,000 to 15,000 adolescent school girls will receive cash assistance – which can be used for school meals – instead of food-based assistance. These are strong incentives for parents to send their children, especially their daughters, to school which helps to improve the long-term prosperity of these children.
The underlying aim of cash grants is to increase and ensure the retention of girls in schools and thus, contribute to an increase in women’s literacy rate in FATA. With an overall literacy rate of 33.3%, (national average 58%, 2013-14), and an adult literacy rate of 28.4% (national average 57%), education indicators in FATA are not only far below the national average, but place FATA among one of the least literate areas of the world. Improving girl’s access to education has been shown to prevent early marriage and teenage pregnancy, as well as increasing lifetime income opportunities and improving the health of future children.
Through this programme – which was designed according to government priorities – WFP also aims to build on existing global and regional models that use cash to support girls’ education, thus building government’s capacity to mainstream such programmes in their development planning in the long run for their ownership and facilitating the future handover of the project. WFP has also supported the Government and lead UN Agencies in the rollout of Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Quality Education: “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” in Pakistan. To the possible extent, WFP’s education programme is integrated with teacher training, nutrition and water and sanitation interventions implemented by WFP’s partners, particularly UNICEF and UNESCO.
In 2016, Australia has contributed US$ 9 million to WFP programmes, placing it in the top five donors to WFP Pakistan. WFP has been implementing education programmes in FATA since 2008.