ISLAMABAD: The United States and Pakistan launched the Pakistan Reading Project here on Thursday, marking the beginning of a five-year, $160 million investment in reading education in Pakistan.
Funded through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the project will improve the reading skills of 3.2 million children across Pakistan, build the capacity of 94,000 primary school teachers, and provide over 6,000 scholarships to train aspiring teachers.
US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson, US Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell, and State Minister for Education, Training, and Standards in Higher Education Baligh-ur-Rehman addressed teachers and parents at the Islamabad Model Secondary School for Girls, Chak Shahzad and then met with schoolchildren.
Ambassador Olson said, “The Pakistan Reading Project is an opportunity to improve the reading skills of millions of Pakistani children. We hope this project will reinforce a national culture of reading - in classrooms, communities, and homes.” US Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine M Russell said, “The United States has invested in girls’ education because we know it is one of the most effective development investments for a girl’s future employment.”
The Pakistan Reading Project will reach students in 67 districts and will help ensure high quality literacy instruction at the primary school level. The project will also provide teacher training opportunities by expanding the number of colleges and universities offering specialised bachelors and associate degrees in education that focus on reading.
The Pakistan Reading Project is one part of a comprehensive education programme that the United States implements in Pakistan in partnership with the government of Pakistan. This programme includes building or rehabilitating more than 850 schools; establishing centres for advanced education studies at three Pakistani universities; expanding English skills for more than 5,000 low-income students; and awarding more than 4,800 scholarships for university students to pursue education through the Pakistan-USAID Merit and Needs Based Scholarship Programme.
Minister of state for Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education ENG Muhammad Bligh-Ur-Rehman while addressing the USAID sponsored Pakistan Reading Project ceremony said that project aims at enhancing the reading abilities and promote reading habits among the children attending schools. Major component of the project include provision of reading material for the students in schools, teachers, training and support to school administration for promoting reading skills and habits among the children. The Minister further said that that Pakistan Reading Project (PRP) is an off budget project which will be implemented by USAID itself while the role of the Ministry of Education and Training is restricted to facilitation and support for the implementation of the project. The picture of illiteracy in Pakistan is grim. Although previous governments have announced various programmes to promote literacy, especially among women, but they have been unable to translate their words into action because of various political and cultural obstacles.
He further emphasised that education is not only necessary for the social and economic well-being of the country, it is also crucial for ensuring social mobility, reducing inequality and addressing poverty. I believe that education is an issue of basic human rights.
“With heavy heart I m saying that primary school enrolment rate is only 66 percent and 7.2 million primary school age children are still out of school we are hopeful that Pakistan Reading Project a five year commitment of the United States Government will assist our government’s efforts to improve the prevailing situation by reaching out to 4 million primary school children and providing them with the opportunity to enhance their reading skills the project will also built the capacity of the teachers which is very important,” the minister said.
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