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The Citizens Foundation Awareness Event - January 12, 2012

 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

 

First of all, I would like to thank you all sincerely for attending today’s awareness event. The Citizens Foundation is a cause that is close to my heart. As you know, prior to being named a Senator, I served on the executive board of the Canadian chapter.

When I was first approached to join The Citizens Foundation, I was more than eager to do my part.  I was impressed by the compelling work of the TCF in our homeland; by its crucial efforts in improving education for Pakistani children.

What the original founders of The Citizens Foundation realized in Karachi in 1995, and what is unfortunately still the case today, is that there is an education crisis in Pakistan.

Many of us who emigrated here from Pakistan were lucky; we came from families who had the means to put us through school. On average, the richest 20% of Pakistani citizens receive almost seven years more education than the poorest.

As we know, however, there are many who are not so lucky. At least 7 million Pakistani children are not in primary school, and 3 million will never see the inside of a classroom. Pakistan will undoubtedly not meet the UN Millennium Development Goal for education by 2015.

Over the years, the lack of education has been noticed by the succession of governments in Pakistan, although this has resulted in little improvement to the literacy rate. Government attempts at educational programming have been unable to make a difference due to political, social, and cultural obstacles, such as: a lack of awareness about the advantages of education, schools that are inaccessible or unaffordable, faculties that are under-qualified, as well as school buildings that are not maintained.

Even in my home province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at the current rate of progress, all children will not receive their constitutional right to education until 2064. {Compared to 2041 in Punjab, 2049 in Sind, and 2100 in Balochistan.} Education levels in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are especially low among girls, where formal literacy is between 3 to 8%.

The reality is that there are social norms which discourage female education. This is disheartening when we know that the largest return on investment in education is among girls – where families are proven to be smaller and children are proven to be healthier.

There has been a real need for progress in education that is unhindered by politics or social and cultural obstacles. The Citizens Foundation has done its best to fill this vacuum in Pakistan. From 6 schools in 1996, TCF is now successfully educating 102,000 students in 730 schools across 83 cities towns and cities, with a drop-out rate of less than 1%.

To date, about 4000 students have graduated from TCF schools, many of whom go into post-secondary education or work at reputable organizations. Some have gone on to study at well-known institutions such as the IBA (Institute of Business Administration), SZABIST (Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology), and the Dow Medical University. About 100 students have even returned as teachers!

What I am most pleased about, however, is that female enrollment in the schools is at 50%, and that the teaching faculty is made up of 5400 women.

In less than 20 years, the TCF has made a significant improvement in the education of Pakistani children. I am especially proud of the work of TCF Canada, where through donations, we have supported about 6500 students.

I would encourage you all to be involved and support the Canadian Chapter of the TCF– through donations, by volunteering your time, or simply by spreading what you have heard today.

I have seen firsthand the vibrancy of our community here in Canada. I know we have the strength, and the ability, to make a difference.

Thank you.