Update from the Field

July 30, 2007

Rubina Mumtaz

The RMF-HOAP Home Tuitions Project was launched off this summer. Hundreds of earthquake survivors suffered spinal cord injuries, many of which are children. SCI is a lifelong disability that confines the victim to the home, requiring constant management and attention. This burdens the poverty stricken families with additional responsibilities.

Many SCI children are then naturally deprived of an education. Quadriplegics cannot leave their homes at all. Paraplegics have wheelchair mobility but this too is limited due to the mountainous terrain. Most SCI children have lost more than one year of schooling since sustaining their injuries last year. If their present circumstances continue, these children will grow up to be not only home-bound, but also illiterate and an added burden to their families.

The Home Tuitions Project’s aim was to sponsor teachers to give home tuitions (tutoring)to home bound SCI children. The teachers will go to each child's house every day, Monday to Friday, for a predetermined number of hours and teach the local school curriculum according to the relevant grade. They will also get permission from the local board of education to conduct the examinations at the homes of their students. Children from the neighborhood, especially girls have been encouraged to join. Boys' education is, unfortunately, considered more important in Pakistan, so when parents cannot afford to send both boys and girls to school (as is often the case) the boys are given the opportunity. Also the ratio of boys’ schools to girls’ schools is 5:1, which makes the distance traveled for girls to get to school greater. Additionally girls are needed for household chores. Home Tuitions addresses all these real life problems without upsetting the cultural gender equilibrium, since girls will actually only spend a few hours a day on studies which will not affect their contribution to the labor in the households.

Funding for this project has come from a delightful source. Young students of Patana Primary School in Bangkok, in response to the earthquake, collected to raise funds to help the children victims. They wanted these funds to address the education of earthquake affected children. Marc Gold from “100 Friends Project USA’, who visited the RMF-HOAP health unit in Balakot last year, mediated this collaboration, making it a reality today. It is a two year funding grant.

Out of the four SCI children identified, three of their families agreed to Home Tutoring. Unfortunately although our aim of addressing as many girl students in the neighborhoods, has not been very successful. Most of the neighborhood families preferred to send their sons to participate in the home tuitions. We have a total of 7 boys and 4 girls in the project. Two local qualified teachers have been hired, giving them an opportunity to employment within their home towns. Stationary and uniform was purchased by the HOAP staff. The staff will also monitor the teachers’ attendance, progress of the students as well as to ensure their registration with the local school examination board and obtain permission to conduct the exams in the homes of the SCI patients.

Classes are being held over summer, to address the gaps of the last year. The teachers thought it would be a good idea not to indulge in summer holidays as the children fall back into the sync of schooling again.

Volunteer for RMF, Dr. Laila Gulzar, collected donations from Dr. Joanne Dish, Ms Rozina Bhimani, Aparna Godavarthy, Dr. Ruth Ross and Kay Wicker and contributed them to RMF. I take this opportunity to thank them all for their generous contributions. These funds have been incorporated into the Home Tuitions Project and will address the stationary needs of any additional children that may opt to participate in the tutoring. We are hoping the smooth and successful imlementation of the project will encourage more families to allow their daughters to enroll.

Country Page: Pakistan Initiative Page: Healthcare Project, Union Council Talhatta