Mr. Syed Akbar Ali Shah's Profile
I am working as General Manager with National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) – an affiliated organization of the Ministry of Education, and leading the provincial team of the organization in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). I did my MA in Educational Planning and Management and completed the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship program (2013-14) from Vanderbilt University. Professionally, I started my career as a secondary school teacher and now, I have assumed the role of General Manager in a national organization. I have worked with different organizations of national and international repute gaining rich experience in the fields of teaching, teacher training, community mobilization, program management, and general administration.
My achievements in promoting female education in GB are worth mentioning. During my service with the Aga Khan Education Service Pakistan I trained many teachers, established 22 community schools mainly for girls, and introduced Early Childhood Development (ECD)centers in 10 public and private schools. As General Manager of NCHD I provided leadership to implement adult literacy and universal primary education programs aimed at achieving EFA goals and MDGs in Pakistan. I established 900 literacy centers for women and 50 community schools in the province. Also, I have successfully led the Mainstreaming of Madaris project whereby we have initiated formal primary education in 15 religious schools of GB.
Having worked for a long time in GB, I am aspiring, now for a more dynamic role at a national level or to work with an international organization in the future.
Female Education in Gilgit Baltistan
My experience: a story of change and successes
Women in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) have been facing a low socio economic status for a long time. Until 1980s, they had no role outside their homes and were denied equal educational opportunities by geographical, social and cultural constraints. The unfavorable religious and tribal attitudes were also major barriers. The fact that, women literacy rate in GB was under 3% in 1981, speaks volumes. Being born and raised in the region, the writer himself is witness to this challenging environment and subsequent developments.
Realizing the dire need of female education in GB, the government launched a large-scale Community Schools project under its nationwide Social Action Program (SAP) in mid-1990s, later strengthened by other donor funded projects. However, certain conservative circles started opposing these initiatives on the pretext that educating girls will cause damage to local culture and religious norms. The story of resistance to female education in some areas has been shocking. For example, several schools built under SAP were dynamited in Diamer district by unknown people. Similarly, some clerics in Skardu issued decrees (fatwa) against a reputed development agency. However, both government and development organizations did not give in, and continued their work. The community schools provided easy access to education and involved communities. Female teachers were employed to make the schools acceptable to parents and attract maximum number of girls. These interventions were helpful in enhancing girls’ enrollment and changing the negative attitudes towards female education. I have worked with one of the projects and contributed towards establishing and overseeing girls’ school in Baltistan division. In 2010, NCHD - a federal government agency initiated its adult literacy and universal primary education programs in GB to improve female literacy rate and ensure 100% enrollment. The writer is overseeing these interventions and has experience of both the challenges and achievements.
Although there is still a long way to go, consistent efforts for education and development in GB have borne fruits. Local communities now welcome female education initiatives and compete for projects. The resisting environment in Diamer has also changed much and people demand for establishing schools and literacy centers. I too had to face political pressure from competing communities for allocating schools in their respective villages. This is a big achievement and a true story of change.
Education for All
Millenium Develoment Goals
Mr. Syed Akbar Ali Shah
National Commission for Human Development, Gilgit-Baltistan
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow