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BISP A Hallmark

Education to children: Another hallmark of BISP
By Shahbaz Ahmed 

Poverty and ignorance has a direct link with extreme tendencies leading to intolerance and terrorism. Hence, the eradication of poverty has become imperative to combat terrorism and create a peaceful and balanced society. Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), as a catalyst of the change, has recently taken another innovative step to promote primary education among children belonging to the downtrodden segments of society.

The scheme is all set to be launched as a pilot in select districts across the country. The cash transfer under the scheme would be linked with school-going children of beneficiary families. The scheme will be the latest addition in the various innovative measures of BISP, including demand driven vocational/technical training along with the provision of micro-financing to ensure livelihood independence for millions of beneficiary families.

Analysis of the data collected through a nationwide poverty survey by BISP reveals that primary education of beneficiaries’ children is one of the major issues of the poor class in Pakistan. A careful evaluation of the data revealed that only 17 percent of BISP beneficiaries send all of their children (between the age of 4 to 10 years) to school, 27 percent of them send some of their children to school, whereas 56 percent do not send any of their children to school. In terms of numbers, more than 5 million children of BISP beneficiaries, between the ages of 4 to 10 years, do not attend any school. The future of millions of these children is in our hands; we can make them productive citizens in the world by providing them with decent educational opportunities; otherwise, sans education, they would become nothing but an easy prey for the cruel forces of extremism, intolerance and terrorism, which are unfortunately competing with the forces of reason in our country.

Realising this urgent need and to cater to the growing finical needs required for sustainable and smooth running of education and vocational training, BISP Chairperson Farzana Raja recently visited several countries friendly to Pakistan, including China, Philippine, Turkey and UAE. She signed several important MoUs with various public and private sector organisations regarding investment in the social sector of Pakistan and especially education and vocational training progarmmes initiated by BISP. The leading economists of the country agree that poverty in Pakistan is multi-faceted and needs to be tackled by applying a multi-pronged strategy. In pursuit of this vision, the government of Pakistan had earlier evolved a comprehensive strategy through BISP and had taken steps aimed at immediate relief.

Before becoming a comprehensive social safety net, BISP was initially aimed at providing cash grants to downtrodden families affected by abject poverty. However, the scope of the programme has been expanded and innovative schemes were introduced to bring about a social and economic revolution in the lives of these hapless segments of society. Thus, the overall budgetary requirements have increased manifold.

It is important to note that BISP is the only pro-poor initiative in the social sector of Pakistan which has gained overwhelming support from prestigious international organisations as well as all political forces in parliament and the civil society of the country. BISP has been able to cultivate this support due to its effective and transparent mechanisms, which are being utilised to provide benefits to more than 5 million deserving families across Pakistan.

The women in our society have been marginalised in the past due to social and political apathy. Likewise, BISP is also contributing significantly for the cause of women empowerment and emancipation in the society. Experts are very hopeful that given the conducive environment, the programme is very likely to achieve both long and short-term goals with regard to poverty reduction and women empowerment. In this connection, Waseela-e-Rozgar, the initiative of imparting vocational and technical training, will be highly instrumental in improving the living standards of skilled labourers as the beneficiary families will be given demand-driven training on a priority basis. The vocational skills training under the Waseela-e-Rozgar initiative of BISP has also been contributing in empowerment and emancipation of working women. Under the initiative, only the head of a registered deserving family or her nominated person can be given this modern technical training.

These measures are in line with the vision of Benazir Bhutto, as improving the lives of the poor remained her priority throughout her life and political struggle. Besides her commitment to democracy and human rights in Pakistan, she always worked with complete dedication for he provision of services to the downtrodden segments of the country.

BISP, as a comprehensive social safety net, has not only revived hopes of the poor in Pakistan who are highly vulnerable in the face of growing inflation, but through measures like provision of quality education, it has now become instrumental in bringing change in the society. It is being expected that the pro-poor initiatives of BISP, including education for children and vocational training, will provide relief to people in need, especially the poorest of the poor, in an effective, transparent and efficient manner.

One may also hope that efforts of BISP will ultimately lead us towards the establishment of social welfare state with productive and educated population, hence achieving a dignified status among the comity of the nations as a modern, progressive and prosperous country.

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