The IRC Education Model followed by all IRC Sojhro Schools is an outcome of our learning on the ground, in the villages of Sindh for the last two decades. The foundation of this model rests on community participation. Each village community provides the space for the school, and if possible, also contributes to the labor involved in building simple one or two room constructions.
The community also provides the teachers. IRC, as a matter of principle, hires only female teachers from the same village or as close to the village as possible to reduce problems of long distance travel. To address the challenges of finding adequately trained teachers locally, IRC follows an ongoing rigorous process of teacher training and development. Educated, bright and promising girls have been recruited as teachers who undergo training in related subjects, and teaching methodologies. Their performance is monitored through occasional visits and mentoring.
Each school also has a Village Education Committee that ensures a low drop-out rate and provides much needed support to teachers. IRC’s education system responds to the obstacles of gaining an education, such as irregularity and absenteeism of teachers, dull learning environment, missing facilities, inadequate books and stationery, and external challenges such as social and cultural constraints, lack of access to secondary school education, transport difficulties for teachers and students, high drop out rates for girls, parents’ discomfort with male teachers, heavy work load at home, fragile health of mothers, and the need for children to work as support on the farmlands.
Proving Access to Education
In addition to improving access to education, a major tenet of the IRC education model rests on providing *quality* education. IRC’s approach to meaningful change in the communities it serves, relies heavily on creating a learning environment that goes beyond providing only basic education to include avenues for creative exploration, sports, well stocked libraries and reading facilities, drama and theatre classes and emphasis on the use of technology. We believe that real change and development is possible when the marginalised can be brought into the mainstream in terms of both access and quality to the education and opportunities that they receive.
IRC believes that education alone cannot resolve the issues of poverty. The main concerns of the poorest of the poor remain little or no livelihood, and deficiencies in health and nutrition in children and adults. Without improving health and economic standards of people, we cannot achieve our mission of providing quality education to marginalised communities.
Therefore, IRC engages in sustainable livelihood projects that sustain households by providing them a minimum threshold of income that can be used to fund children’s education and provide for their health and nutrition.
Khazana is a key livelihood project that creates opportunities for women to explore their potential through craftwork, skill enhancement and income generation, creating sustainable livelihood options in the non-farm economic sector. The project has increased the exposure of rural female home-based workers to outside world and market dynamics as they provide design support and production of handicrafts, that are then sold at Khazana outlets in Khairpur, Kotdiji and Karachi. These include embroidery, patch work, household products made with date and wheat stems, clay work, wood painting, hand-loom weaving, block printing etc.
The Khazana training centre provides a woman and child friendly space and is housed in a historical building gifted to IRC by Prince Mir Mehdi Reza Khan Talpur of the Talpur royal family of Khairpur. The location provides an enjoyable women friendly social space, a commercially viable food centre for entertainment purposes and a space to hold social and cultural events. Over time, the building has transformed into a lively treasure house of creativity, learning and enterprise.
It is a place where children come to read, learn and play, adults come to meet, talk and feast on traditional food, and many come to buy a diverse range of household and gift items, including local handicrafts. The mission of Khazana is to propagate all forms of knowledge and facilitate access to progressive ideas. It aims to stimulate the innate creativity of ordinary citizens and build an atmosphere conducive to learning and interacting in a community.