Since 2009, four Peace Schools have been established in District Lahore (2), Sialkot (1) and Gujrat (1). These three districts, and in specific, the localities within these districts were selected primarily due to the density of Afghan Refugees residing there. The Peace Schools now offer education from Nursery to Grade 5. Punjab Education Board Syllabus has been introduced which has enabled students to give exams under the Punjab Board. A certificate is provided to them once they clear exams, after which they can pursue their higher education in Pakistani colleges, if their families decide to stay here and not repatriate to Afghanistan. We have observed that 30% of the students graduating from the Afghan Peace Schools pursued higher studies.
Significant focus is placed on arranging extracurricular activities such as visits to historical places, picnics and other excursions etc. aiming at providing the students with an opportunity to learn through team building activities in an informal setting. Besides, cricket and badminton matches were also organized for the children along with quiz programs and debate competitions.
We try our best to provide with free books along with stationery and other relevant material. Recently a number of initiatives have been taken for improving the overall infrastructure and quality of schools including the re-equipment of schools with furniture as well as provision of uniforms, stationery and books to the students. These initiatives have greatly contributed in minimizing absenteeism among the students as they keenly participate in both educational and extra-curricular activities now.
We also celebrate and observe different days like Hand Washing Day, Children’s Day, Teacher’s Day and Refugees Day etc. with the students of Afghan Peace Schools. Interactive sessions consisting of various interesting activities are arranged in which children express their thoughts and views about the theme of the day.
Meetings with education consultants are arranged on regular basis to improve the syllabus and to introduce up-to-date teaching methods and strategies. FACES administration has also established linkages with the Education Department of Pakistan to introduce nursery class to prepare students to enter Grade I. As a self-initiative by FACES Pakistan, kindergarten classes were started in which 100 children were enrolled. The focus is on teaching them basic learning skills, languages, and values of peace, tolerance and harmony.
The curriculum has been designed in accordance with that being taught in Afghanistan and comprises the following subjects:
· Peace Education/ Value education
· Social Studies
· General Science
Initially FACES Pakistan only recruited teachers from the Afghan community so that the students and parents both felt comfortable and trusted the school, but because many teachers would leave the school without giving prior notice, FACES Pakistan had to include Pakistani nationals from nearby areas. Inclusion of teachers proved to be very fruitful as it led to the Afghan children getting more comfortable with people from different cultural and ethnic background as well as with their norms and local culture.