Raafia Saeed Islahi
Kashf Foundation was set-up in 1996 as Pakistan’s first specialized microfinance institution to provide a suite of financial and non-financial services aimed at transforming life of low-income households. Since then, Kashf has provided over 2.9 million microfinance loans, facilitated over 5.8 million life insurance covers, trained over 1 million women in financial education, graduated over 19,000 women from its Business Incubation Lab program, trained over 157,000 men, women and youth in its gender training program, and produced as well as aired two successful soap operas highlighting issues affecting women on Pakistan’s mainstream media channels.
Keeping in view the current situation with 25 million out-of-school-children in Pakistan, an average of 37 students per teacher, 18% of teachers absent every day, unsafe schools’ environment, 58% of schools without toilets, 64% without access to water, and 46% of students not being able to read in Urdu at the end of primary school, Pakistan faces an “education quality” issue in public schools, mainly due to insufficient Government investment in the sector. Private schools have mushroomed in Pakistan with Low Cost Private Schools (LCPS). Seeing this gap Kashf Foundation introduced their Education Finance Programme (KEFP). The Programme offers credit facilities to low-cost private schools with teachers’ capacity building trainings and school management trainings. The program focuses on marginalized communities located in semi-urban and urban markets. The minimum enrolment of the schools is 80 students at time of loan appraisal out of which at least 40% must be female.
This project was piloted in 2012, and now covers over 1100 schools in Punjab and Sindh, which means over 1800 school owners and 4500 school teachers have been trained and approximately 570,000 students impacted through KEFP. These efforts have won Kashf Foundation the European Microfinance Award 2016, which was presented by Ministry of Foreign & European Awards, Luxembourg. The Award honours the Kashf for its setup of innovative solutions to enable access to education and professional training for the young and adults, resultantly, stimulate creation of economic activities.