PAKISTAN: U.S. State Department Extends Funding for Salesian Missions Program for Afghan Refugee School Children
(MissionNewswire) The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration has renewed funding for a Salesian Missions program serving Afghan refugee children and their families in Quetta, the capital of the Baluchistan Province, Pakistan.
The program—which initially received funding for 12 months in February 2012—centers on reinforcing primary education systems at six schools in highly volatile Quetta, Pakistan. A Salesian primary school and five Salesian-supported schools have been receiving support specific to the needs and challenges of educating the Afghan refugee population. UNHCR’s Head of Office in Quetta, Charles Lynch-Staunton, commended Salesian Missions for this work in an official letter of support, stating “Salesian Missions for Don Bosco is a UNHCR Operating Partner and active member of our Afghan Refugee Education Coordinating Network in Baluchistan.”
The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) has extended funding for an additional six months. This extension ensures that the progress made through the program will continue, working toward the goal of having schools become self-sufficient, no longer reliant on international assistance.
In Pakistan, 2,200 boys and girls ages 4 to 13 are benefitting from Salesian Missions’ comprehensive approach to strengthening their education. The program includes everything from teacher training and resource improvements for child learning, to infrastructure improvement and web-ready computer labs.
“The students are among the most passionate of any I have seen in the world,” said Neill Holland, Deputy Director of the Salesian Missions Office for International Programs and the agency’s Country Representative for Pakistan. “They are more bright-eyed, energetic, and outgoing than you would ever imagine considering what these kids have witnessed, fleeing across the border with their families, and for many, a life-long war in their homeland.”
The PRM-funded program administered by Salesian Missions and local partners in Afghanistan has resulted in fully equipped and updated, kid-friendly schools.
“Locally, we have gone from schools without sanitation, and from classroom walls that were in danger of falling over; to schools that are structurally safe, have new bathrooms and hygiene education, books, uniforms and even computers—and a connection to the outside word—for the first time ever,” added Holland, who recently returned from a program monitoring trip where he saw the impact first-hand.
Positive impact includes more than 70 teachers, professionally trained for their work with the refugee youth population and motivated to make a difference in their improved schools. As a result, an estimated 85 percent of students who are age-eligible to graduate are forecasted to pass their examinations. Furthermore, the program administration has ensured through advocacy and policy dialogue with Government and NGO Partners that the education students receive in Pakistan will be recognized by the Government of Afghanistan, should their families return home.
“We are working to reinforce primary education in a way that will continue to assist the Afghan children regardless of whether their parents choose to stay in the host country or to return to Afghanistan.” explained Holland.
The goal of the Quetta program is to mainstream struggling Afghan refugee schools so they may become a part of the Pakistani education community, and benefit from its shared institutional resources, even while they serve Afghani youth. Part of this results-driven strategy involves creating useful partnerships with local organizations and the government that can be leveraged to sustain these refugee schools during the years ahead. In fact, the Salesians had already been working in these communities for some time, and their focus on fostering strong community relationships has made them a pivotal U.S. Government partner. Proven results include reaching established program goals and surpassing all expectations.
“This success was realized expressly through the contribution of Salesian Missions’ local team of dedicated lay staff in Quetta, male and female, who give 100 percent every day despite security concerns for themselves and their families.” says Holland. “Their inspiration comes from an enduring sense of brotherhood – and sisterhood – with the vulnerable Afghan refugee community they serve. To work alongside our team of local staff in Pakistan is to experience the heartbeat of humanity, the bond shared between people regardless of their race, creed, color or gender. ”
PHOTOS: Neill Holland/Salesian Missions
ABOUT SALESIAN MISSIONS
Salesian Missions is the U.S. development arm of the international Salesians of Don Bosco—specializing in programs and services for at-risk youth in more than 130 countries. The Salesians are widely considered the world’s largest private provider of vocational and technical education. The Office for International Programs is the global development arm of Salesian Missions which supports programs globally through partnerships with the U.S. government and private-sector organizations, state-of-the-art concepts, and in-kind financial support. Salesian Missions is headquartered in New Rochelle, NY, and is part of the Don Bosco Network—a worldwide federation of Salesian NGOs. For more information, go to www.SalesianMissions.org or www.MissionNewswire.org.
ABOUT THE DOS BUREAU OF POPULATION, REFUGEES AND MIGRATION
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration provides aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people around the world, through repatriation, local integration, and resettlement in the United States. PRM also promotes the United States’ population and migration policies. For more information, go to www.state.gov/j/prm/.