Interactive teaching methods help students learn better at Non-Formal Education Centre in Pakistan

Sindh School Education & Literacy Department's non-formal education policy helps out-of-school children continue learning using accelerated curriculum.

Sana'a Zuberi
Class room
UNICEF/Pakistan/Sana'a Zuberi
07 June 2021

The cool Arabian sea breeze makes a particularly warm Karachi day pleasant as students gather in the one-room Abdur Rehman Goth Non-Formal Basic Education Center (NFBEC) in the town of Kemari. Located about 37 km away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan city of Karachi, Kemari is a cluster of quiet fishing villages located on the southern coastal tip of Pakistan’s south eastern Sindh province.

Most people living in the villages are fishermen whose roots are found in the neighbouring province of Balochistan.  Among them is 25-year-old Fazeela, who teaches a total of 38 children (27 girls), how to read and write at the centre.

“Draw a C on your folded papers and cut along the line,” Fazeela tells the dozen students attending class on that day as she shows them how to make paper flowers, speaking in their native Balochi language. Since the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic reached Pakistan one year ago, the class has been divided into two shifts who study on alternate days, in line with COVID-19 preventive behaviours.

It’s Friday, a day which all students cherish as it is dedicated to arts and play-based learning activities. The walls of the classroom are plastered with art works done by students; the results of science projects are exhibited on the tables at the back. Many are made from recycled material, such as a lamp made from a plastic soda bottle, an old lampshade and some wire.

“We don’t get many things at the market here so I try to see what we can make with the items we find in our homes,” says Fazeela.

Fazeela, who says she draws her inspiration from online YouTube tutorials and blogs, is a strong believer in play-based learning. She uses Fridays’ art classes and play-based activities to teach math, social studies and science lessons to complement the more academic lessons taken during the week.

tudent Durnaaz proudly showing one of her drawings
UNICEF/Pakistan/Sana'a Zuberi
Starry-eyed student Durnaaz proudly showing one of her drawings.

The non-formal education centre in which she teaches is part of a network of 80 located in the most marginalized and impoverished communities on the outskirts of Karachi and in southern Sindh. About 2,400 students aged from nine to 16 -- more than half girls -- benefit from the programme supported by UNICEF with funding from the Norwegian Committee for UNICEF.

The programme, implemented with UNICEF partner, Indus Resource Centre (IRC), supports the non-formal education policy led by Sindh’s School Education and Literacy Department in its goal of helping out-of-school children who have never been to school, or who have dropped out, resume learning, using an accelerated curriculum.

Fazeela is one of 80 teachers and facilitators who were selected following extensive evaluation tests and interviews. All come from the very villages and informal settlements where they teach, to enhance community ownership and sustainability. All attended a week-long training and were equipped with educational tools and kits. Fazeela now teaches at the centre during the day and studies to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree during the evening.

As Fazeela speaks, students work in pairs, excited and eager to see the outcome of their work. This prompts Fazeela to mention that in the seven years she has taught at the centre, she noticed that students learn best when lessons are interactive.

Some of the students made an ATM machine out of Styrofoam and PVC pipe. Twelve-year-old Mahnoor inserts a coin in it before inserting a card; as she pulls the card out, the coin falls into an open compartment, ready to be picked.

The students take a keen interest in studying
UNICEF/Pakistan/Sana'a Zuberi
The students take a keen interest in studying

“I had no idea what an ATM was until Madam Fazeela showed us, and even less how it works. Now we made one with her,” the girl tells with glee.

Fazeela, who lives with her mother and her cousin, has been the primary breadwinner in her family since her father died and her sister got married and moved away. She has always been passionate about teaching, especially to empower young girls.

“My sister used to teach at a non-formal education centre too,” Fazeela tells. “This stirred my interest and I applied to teach at the center here. I find that academic learning can be quite boring. I was happy to see that teacher training for the centres focused on more interactive teaching methods, with a focus on play-based learning.”

“Our teacher Fazeela teaches with love, which motivates us to learn,” says 15-year-old, Mahira.

Being the oldest of the students at the centre, Mahira acts as Fazeela’s informal assistant. She helps her check the temperature of each student before they go to class each morning, in line with COVID-19 SoPs. She also helps her teacher monitor students’ attendance and helps other students with their Math or English lessons.

Mahira used to study at a school located far from her community, but she had to drop out along with some other girls because her parents did not feel it was safe for her to walk at least half an hour to reach class. They enrolled her at the centre when it opened, since it was located at the heart of the village. She also thinks that she learns more easily at the centre because the lessons and activities are more entertaining and motivating.

Fazeela sits with Mahira
UNICEF/Pakistan/Sana'a Zuberi
Fazeela sits with Mahira, the oldest student at the centre and also her informal assistant.

The flexibility of the centre also helps. As the lessons stop at 12:30, girls like Mahira can go and help their mothers at home. This encourages the local impoverished families to enroll their girls, as they know they will be able to continue helping at home even if they start going to school.

The play-based and other innovative learning method used at the centre and the motivation of its teacher, help fight student absenteeism.

For Fazeela, the centre has made a world of difference.

“I find it hard to believe that the students in class today are the same children who first enrolled,” Fazeela tells.

Some parents told me that their children were not intelligent, because they were very quiet and reserved.  Thanks to the training I attended, I knew how to use interactive teaching methods to stimulate them and help them learn. I have seen them grow as a result. Today they are self-confident and motivated to learn.”

The community of Abdur Rehman Goth
UNICEF/Pakistan/Sana'a Zuberi
The community of Abdur Rehman Goth sits right at the sea where they take their fishing boats out.