THE SHIP IS SAILING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION! The definition of development lies not with a practitioner but it is situated in the field. It is the raw experience of looking at the people, their culture, economic and social status. Annual Status of education Report initiated in Pakistan by Idara-e-Taleem-O-Aaghi in 2010 is a household survey and is embedded in the experiences of field. It is was my first experience of going into the field for ASER and I must admit that no amount of literary knowledge I have gained through-out these years could not have been a preparatory base for this experience. Field work is daunting, it’s hard work and beyond all its different from everything or anything we read in Books.
I was involved with ASER trainings of Islamabad and Rawalpindi; later left for the field with Rawalpindi team. The essence of ASER lies in mobilizing a volunteer, gear him for the challenge of doing this survey and persuade him that he is contributing to the system. The trainings are about convincing these groups of men and women that their work would pay off, that their strenuous efforts will not only be reflected in Final Report but they are change makers towards innovations in the educational system. They have to be convinced that the Policy makers will give a thought to the data that is reflecting the state of education system in Pakistan and when the policy will be amended they will know that they had a role to play in it. The trainings are about convincing the ordinary man in Pakistan has a stake in the policy, its planning and its implementation can be altered by their effort.
The mock survey for Rawalpindi was conducted in the village ‘Ghungrila’ in Gujjar Khan. The village was few kilometers away from the main Grand Trunk Road but nonetheless had fair road access to the facilities. The first stop was made at a Government Primary School of the village. The school was set in a clean place with a strong boundary wall. The Head Teacher was kind enough to welcome us to the school. The volunteers accompanied me; I asked some of them to begin by collecting data of the school from the Head Teacher. She was a kind woman and was very helpful and patient with the new volunteers. There were some old master trainers with us who have done ASER before and they told the volunteers that’ this survey has been designed in an effective manner, it mobilizes people from their own locality and it thus helps the surveyor to collect more transparent information with lesser resistance from respondents’. I was very curious about the steps that government is taking for the Early learning of children in these government schools; Head Teacher led me to the nursery which was just a room with toodler seating arrangement and few ragged stuffed toys. The Head Teacher said that most things that are here are bought from school expense and no particular designed learning aid is provided by the government. There has been a lot done over the years in the education sector in Pakistan and it is reflected in better infrastructure and status of education in Pakistan but there still needs a lot to be done and strong research work needs to be inculcated.
The household survey again gave a chance to reflect on our culture, conservatism and beyond all this how this nation is ready to beat all odds and indeed is moving towards a better future. The picture is bleak if compared to the rest of the world but I am firm believer that we began our journey from a point of total wreckage and we have come a long way. The ship is sailing in the right direction and if the nature stays on our side, the voyage might be tough but the island of better future is not far away.