Using technology to reach the most under-served students in Pakistan

Across Pakistan, 22.6 million children (44%) of school-going age don’t go to school. This is largely because education is unaffordable, or the nearest school is too far away. Children who don’t attend school are often the most vulnerable and marginalised, while the long-term impact on the country is a generation which lacks the skills to pursue careers that could help build the economy.

In 1995, The Citizens Foundation (TCF) was set up by a group of citizens with a vision to bring about positive social change by removing barriers of class and privilege. The non-profit’s mission is to provide quality education and help Pakistani youth create a better future. It does so by building schools in Pakistan’s slums and rural communities, and training principals and teachers to work in these schools.

TCF is currently providing quality, free education to over 200,000 students at 1,441 schools across the country.

For example, 15-year-old Zainab’s father died when she was just three years old, leaving her mother unable to afford to send her to school, until she found out about the TCF school in their community. Twelve years later, Zainab has just scored an A in her board exams and plans to study computer science when she graduates.

Similarly, while Adnan’s father was an important presence in his life, his role as sole breadwinner meant he needed an affordable school close to his medicine dispensary to send his son. Attending TCF’s school in Karachi allowed Adnan to gain a quality education while also being able to help his father after school. Adnan graduated with good marks, went on to study an MBA and followed in his father’s footsteps by eventually opening his own dispensary.

An effective school management system, combined with a robust communications and data analytics system in place, is essential for TCF to offer its services to students like these. It has implemented Microsoft cloud technology to achieve this.

Improving communication

TCF has various touchpoints responsible for strategy and product development, school administration, as well as the schools themselves. With these touchpoints existing remotely across Pakistan, it was essential for the organisation to have a robust communications system in place.

“In the past, we made use of hosted email services from a vendor,” says Naveed Younus, Head of Information Technology at TCF. “However, this was costly for us, was not always reliable and wasn’t accessible remotely.”

Microsoft provided TCF with Office 365 licenses to improve its organisation-wide communication.

“Now, our email is hosted on Office 365. This helps us provide 100% uptime to our staff and also gives them the capability to connect remotely via their mobile devices,” explains Younus.

Staff members also make use of Microsoft Teams and Planner to collaborate more effectively and help improve monitoring and tracking of tasks.

“This translates into direct savings with reduced travel time and expenses,” says Younus. “The other major benefits are increased productivity and efficiency, improved management communications and enhanced business opportunities.”

Tracking performance and managing donors

Along with the need for effective communication, TCF also needed to keep up to date with its operations and KPIs, monitor school performance and manage its donor relations.

“We implemented Power BI to enhance our business intelligence and analytics dashboards. This means we can track the performance of our students, teachers and the schools themselves on a daily basis,” explains Younus. “In turn, this helps us monitor our operations, make better decisions and attract donors who want to see how our schools are performing.”

Monitoring school management

While TCF hasn’t been able to implement Office 365 in its schools due to lack of internet access in the rural areas of Pakistan, the organisation has used Microsoft technologies to develop its school management system.

“Our school management system is hosted on premises on our private cloud and allows us to do quality assurance and auditing,” says Younus.

The non-profit is also planning to roll out a learning management system and use technology to facilitate teacher training and student learning. In addition, as Pakistan’s internet infrastructure improves, he hopes to be able to implement more technology in the schools themselves.

Continually improving the quality of education with technology

“Our main goal this year is to improve the quality of education across the country and scale up to provide education to many more students from all walks of life,” says Younus. “Technology allows us to break down the barriers of access to education and has an integral role to play in helping us prepare tomorrow’s leaders and drive growth in Pakistan.”


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