Students across 40 primary schools in northern Pakistan have benefited from a unique collaboration between the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO, Volvo Group, and the Swedish Embassy in Pakistan.
As the project executing agency, the UNESCO Islamabad office undertook the project in close collaboration with the education department in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Volvo invested nearly $100,000 to provide young children with the much-loved children’s book “Pippi Longstocking.”
The project — Providing Primary School Students Inspiring and Motivational Reading Material — was designed to enhance the learning of primary students in two districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan’s mountainous northern region.
It aimed at improving the retention of students by creating a culture of reading and providing support to both students and teachers, and improving learning opportunities for the students through a focused approach toward teacher training and classroom strategies. It strove to improve the school-learning environment by enhancing teachers’ capabilities and ensuring students had access to interactive reading materials.
To promote reading as a fun activity, “Pippi Longstocking,” a story of a brave and curious girl written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, was translated into Urdu and introduced as additional reading material.
Target schools were given a set of storybooks, along with reading and interactive teaching and learning material. Teachers were trained in active learning strategies.
The project helped 6,000 students and 77 teachers, in addition to 42,000 parents and community members, who were widely engaged.
While the project originally introduced the active learning material and co-curricular books to the 40 target schools, other schools also benefited by borrowing them.
The project was launched in 2019 to help children in many parts of Pakistan who did not have access to primary education. Children in rural areas and especially girls are affected more by inequalities in education.
The annual Status of Education report revealed that only 50 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls in public schools in the Gilgit-Baltistan region could read complete sentences
Patricia McPhillips, director of UNESCO Islamabad, appreciated the contribution made by Volvo Group and stressed the need to scale up the project in other provinces and areas of Pakistan.
She said the provision of storybooks and other learning aids enhanced students’ access to interactive and empowering reading materials.
McPhillips underlined the importance of the availability of reading material in schools for developing reading habits among students to improve their analytical and critical thinking skills.
Farida Timsiet, marketing and communication manager at Volvo Middle East, said that partnering with UNESCO and the Embassy of Sweden in Pakistan “further solidified our objective of giving back to our communities around the globe.”