Nansen Refugee Award winner completed education project in Punjab
KOT CHANDNA, MIANWALI, 26 October 2017 – Ms. Aqeela Asifi – the 2015 Nansen Refugee Award winner – has successfully completed her education project in Kot Chandna refugee village in Mianwali district in Punjab, benefiting over 200 female students.
The government of Punjab has formally upgraded the Community Girls Model School No 2, which is being run by Aqeela Asifi. This middle-secondary school has been expended to higher-secondary school by including 9th and 10th grade classes for refugee students.
Utilizing the Nansen award money, Ms. Aqeela Asifi implemented the education project with two components. Additional classrooms and a new science laboratory were built and equipped with beakers, charts, models, microscope and tube. A small library was established for students to read different books.
Under the project, Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) executed a skill development programme for the refugee female students. As many as 42 pupils had successfully completed the five-month training courses in basic computer and tailoring.
Speaking at the project completion ceremony, the UN refuge agency Representative in Pakistan, Ms. Ruvendrini Menikdiwela lauded the efforts and dedication of Ms. Aqeela Asifi for the promotion of education for Afghan refugee girls in Pakistan. “Her decision to use the Nansen Award funding to support the upgradation of the school and create skills training opportunities for girls further reflects her genuine commitment to bring girls to the classrooms and equip them with skills,” she said.
She appreciated the Government of Pakistan and Punjab for not only hosting Afghan refugees, but also creating an enabling environment for learning and skills building. “Punjab is known for its strong commitment to education, and it is heartening to see that the Government extends the same opportunities for empowerment to Afghan refugees too,” she added.
Commissioner Afghan Refugees, Punjab, Mr. Riaz Chaudhry said that the Government has been making efforts to ensure Afghan refugees have access to education, skills training and health services in Pakistan. “Our office has made concerted efforts to help upgrade and affiliate Ms. Aqeela’s school with the Sargoda (Punjab) education board,” he said, adding they will continue to support the refugees.
Ms. Aqeela Asifi said many girl students had to stay home after completion of their grade 8 as there were no higher secondary schools in the entire camp. Owing to the upgradation of the school, now a first batch of around 14 students are enrolled in Grade 9.
With the five-month computer and tailoring training, Aqeela said female students are now able to earn a decent living. “The students used to purchase cloths in open market at Rs.2000 (USD20), now they can stitch their cloths for themselves, for families and neighbours. They now earn,” she said, adding she feels relieved and glad to see her students are fulfilling their dreams.
The ceremony was attended by representatives from the Norwegian Embassy, Government and Punjab Vocational Training (PVTC). Elders and students of Kot Chandna refugee village were also present at the occasion. Certificates were distributed to the students who participated in the vocational skills training at the occasion.