Literacy charity's branch marks 10 years

The UAE chapter of a charity devoted to improving literacy in Pakistan is celebrating 10 years of hard work.

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DUBAI // The UAE chapter of a charity devoted to improving literacy in Pakistan is celebrating 10 years of hard work. The Citizens Foundation has established 530 schools in Pakistan to teach the children of fishermen, labourers and farmers. The UAE chapter, based in Dubai, is marking its anniversary by trying to get more attention for the project. So far the schools established by the foundation employ 3,550 teachers and teach 65,000 students, but the goal is to reach 1,000 schools teaching 350,000 children. All the teachers and principals of the 404 primary and 126 secondary schools are women, which has pleased parents who did not want their daughters studying under male teachers.

"It is a myth that people don't want to send their daughters to school. What they worry about is the distance they have to travel and who is interacting with them," said Ishaque Noor, the director of the UAE branch of the Citizens Foundation. "Typically, first mothers send their daughters even if the father does not agree. Eventually, you'll see both parents show up for meetings." The UAE chapter has been critical to the foundation's growth. The UAE chapter tries to raise 15 per cent of the annual budget of between US$8 million and US$9 million. It has persuaded people "to go and see the schools for themselves and in turn they have decided to contribute to build their own campus", Mr Noor said.

Some campuses have been named after contributors, such as members of the royal families of Dubai and Sharjah. Others have been named after cities, such as the Abu Dhabi campuses in Karachi and Sindh. Pakistan has one of the lowest school enrolment rates in south Asia, according to the UN Children's Fund. The Citizens Foundation, whose volunteers include people from such professions as engineering and banking, are offering mentoring programmes to the first of 570 students who are set to graduate this year. All the schools must build at least two more classrooms in each of the schools.

"Most of the schools were designed to teach till Class 10 but now we are trying to accommodate students for another two years of schooling," Mr Noor said. "So they can be part of the international system of 12 years of education, in order to qualify for college."