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How to Get Girls in Schools: Conditional Cash Transfers in South Asia

Available in: العربية
Girls in School 

Girls’ enrollment in secondary schools in the 15 poorest districts in Punjab has increased by 60 percent.

What are successful models to get girls in schools in Pakistan where only 57 percent of girls and women can read and write and where in rural areas only 22 percent of girls have completed primary level schooling as compared to 47 percent of boys?

One hopeful solution comes from "conditional cash transfers" which means that cash is paid to beneficiaries if certain conditions are satisfied. In Pakistan’s Punjab province for example, families receive 200 Rupees a month per girl to ensure that their daughters attend school, after the headmistress verifies attendance. As a result girls’ enrollment in secondary schools in the 15 poorest districts in Punjab has increased by 60 percent from 175,000 to 280,000 since 2003.

The notion of conditional cash transfers which are still relatively new to South Asia was introduced at a regional workshop on Promoting Pro-Poor Human Development: the Role of Safety Nets which was held in Lahore on March 6 to 8, 2007. The workshop was jointly designed and organized by the World Bank Institute and the South Asia Human Development Department of the World Bank and hosted by the Government of Punjab. Some 100 representatives of Ministries of Social Welfare, Education, and Health from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated.

 Boys walk to schoolBoys walk to school

"Girls are less able than boys to take public transportation or walk to school in Pakistan’s social context..."

Girls are less able than boys to take public transportation or walk to school in Pakistan’s social context, and the cost of private transport – roughly equivalent to the 200 Rupees stipend - was the binding constraint for poor families,” said Khalid Gillani, Secretary of Education in Punjab Province.

With increasing distances for high schools, girl drop-out rates rise. Hence, in 2005, the stipends were extended to high school girls as well. In Bangladesh girls and boys have equal enrollment rates at the secondary level, thanks to a similar stipend program started in 1990.
 
Another example is Pakistan’s national Bait-Ul-Mal program which was started after the 2005 earthquake. The disaster thrust issues of basic human needs to the highest attention levels, and support to alleviate the impact of the disaster provided many lessons on how to assist the most vulnerable. As a result, Pakistan started the Bait –Ul-Mal program which includes a Food Support Program for poor households on the basis of conditional cash transfers. A pilot child support program is currently being developed aimed at increasing enrollment of these poor households at the primary level. 

Girls in School 

Creaking from its own success, girls’ schools are bursting at the seams.

In Punjab province, the Bait-Ul-Mal, combined with the Punjab Government’s education programs, can show impressive results. Creaking from its own success, girls’ schools are bursting at the seams.  At a school in Kasur district, 90 9th graders were elbow-to-elbow on the floor in a roughly 20 by 15 foot classroom. 

As girls go to school in droves thanks to the conditional cash transfer programs, new challenges arise such as hiring more teachers, building new schools and ensuring that the quality of services can keep up with the demand.

Pakistan has also drafted a National Strategy on Social Protection, among the first to do so in the region. Zobaida Jala, Federal Minister for Social Welfare and Special Education, pointed out: “The strategy’s centerpiece is to initially direct support to the 10 percent most vulnerable households through conditional cash transfer programs for education, health, and livelihoods.” This is a necessary step since in Pakistan every 10th child dies before his or her 5th birthday – despite the country’s annual growth of around 6 percent.

While the early successes of conditional cash transfers speak for themselves, there remain many issues to be looked at while the programs further develop. The most importantly is how to improve the accountability of cash transfer programs. But it is also important to determine how best to link with microfinance programs, how to balance in-kind with in-cash support, when to graduate beneficiaries to become self-sustainable, and how to equip beneficiaries with tools to track their entitlements. A first step might be to increase community participation at all stages starting with public information campaigns, and strengthened monitoring and evaluating to know if the programs are on track.

Contributed by Alexandra Humme and Mohini Malhotra, World Bank Institute.

 




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