$900 million aid package approved by World Bank


The World Bank on Friday approved a package of assistance worth $900 million to help the Government of Pakistan improve education in Punjab and Sindh provinces and to further scale up a community-driven development project that is already active in some 35,000 villages throughout the country.
Pakistan has made significant gains in education in the past decade, with net national primary school enrolment jumping 14 percentage points, from 42 to 56 percent, between 2001 and 2007. The highest increase occurred in Punjab with 17 percentage points, followed by Sindh with 10 percentage points.
Despite these improvements, young Pakistanis are still the least likely school attendants in all South Asia, and there are wide boy-girl and rural-urban disparities, said a statement issued here on Friday. “Even where there have been gains in student enrollment as in Punjab and Sindh, these have yet to translate into improved student learning”, according to Yusupha Crookes, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan.
“In addition to continued efforts to improve access and equity, these education projects will put a greater emphasis on the quality and relevance of education. Central to achieving these outcomes is the focus on improving governance, management, and capacity in education, which are at the heart of both provincial governments’ reform strategies.”
The Punjab Education Sector Project ($350 million) and the Sindh Education Sector Reform Project ($300 million) support the provincial governments’ own education reform programs which aim to increase school participation and progression, reduce gender and rural-urban disparities, and improve quality and education sector governance.
The governments’ efforts focus on attracting more children to school by providing free textbooks, stipends to secondary school girls, and subsidies to low cost private schools. They also support improvements in school facilities and encourage merit and need-based teacher recruitment.
These are accompanied by initiatives to strengthen professional development for teachers, improve monitoring and evaluation (including examination and assessment systems), build capacity of school councils and the district education management system, and improve financial management and procurement systems.
The Bank also approved $250 million for the Third Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF-III) Project, a poverty program that has already reached more than 2.5 million people.
The Bank has supported the PPAF with $646 million since 2000. During this time, the program has facilitated the formation of 80,000 community organisations and provided 1.9 million micro-credit loans, 16,000 community infrastructure schemes, and skills and enterprise development training for 232,000 people.
PPAF-III will build on these achievements and continue empowering poor people with increased incomes, improved productive capacity, and better access to services to achieve sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty.
It will increase its focus on inclusion of poor people–including women, youth and ultra-poor households–in community organisations, and strengthen their participation in all community decision-making processes. The credits from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm, carries a 0.75 percent service fee, a 10-year grace period, and a maturity of 35 years.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009

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