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The 10 to 16 Program

We will launch a ‘ladder’ of literacy and skills classes for out-of-school pre-teens and teens so they can become agents of positive change.

Photo of Nadia Naviwala

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

After building and operating nearly 1,500 schools across Pakistan, The Citizens Foundation’s board has agreed to design an iteration of our education model in a format appropriate out-of-school children pre-teens and teenagers (10 to 16 years olds). Pakistan has the 2nd largest out of school population in the world (after Nigeria). The response to this crisis has focused on primary schooling (children aged 5 to 9) even though 77% of out-of-school children in Pakistan are 10 to 16. This problem has been neglected. It is also tied to chronic violence and poverty, and the deterioration of the planet. Sixty-four percent of the population is under age 29. They are largely illiterate, lack skills to earn an income, and are likely to marry young and produce large families. This youth bulge is vulnerable to perpetuating extremist violence and criminal activity. We believe children who are in school or working will marry later and have fewer children, thereby reducing stress on the planet. We aim to reach 843,000 children by 2030 in the world's sixth-largest country in the world. Increasing women completing secondary education by just 1% could increase Pakistan's economic growth by 0.3%. The classes will be modeled Aagahi, literacy classes that we designed for the mothers of our students, reaching 12,000 females every year. Over time, girls have joined these classes so that 40% are now between ages 12 and 20. We want to: (1) add modules beyond basic literacy so that girls can mainstream into school or gain skills to earn an income and (2) develop a similar ladder of courses appropriate for boys. Classes will be held in schools and in community spaces at a time and for a duration that is feasible for child laborers. It will combine education (literacy, numeracy, an basic life skills) and employability skills (vocational, grooming, communication) depending on what is in demand and useful and whether most kids want to go to school or earn an income.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are boys and girls aged 10 – 16 years old in rural and urban Pakistan. Seventy-seven percent of them have never been to school. The rest dropped out. Over 40% of the boys are not interested in traditional schooling. For girls, either parents or girls are not interested. They are from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Pre-teens and teenagers will drop out if enrolled in kindergarten. Most work during the day. They need a tailored program to acquire literacy, numeracy and vocational skills. They and their parents need motivation and assurances of safety (in the case of girls) to enroll. Boys and girls who participate in the program will be equipped to live fulfilled lives and give back to their families, communities, and country, instead of creating further stress. Literacy will enable educated decisions. Numeracy will enable household budgeting. School and work will delay marriage and and enable health, nutrition, and education for fewer children.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Even though Pakistan has 17.5 million out of school children who are aged 10 to 16, there are almost no accelerated learning or literacy programs available to them. There are some vocational programs but they tend to take in students who have been to school. Our program is unique because it will be tailored to address the needs of older children who have never been to school, and gives them (especially girls) the option to mainstream into school if they want to. TCF is uniquely qualified to address this need as we have: a network of infrastructure and field management in 700 locations across Pakistan, over two decades of experience in teacher training and curriculum development, and experience with remedial and accelerated programs for diverse populations. We have a literacy, numeracy, and life skills program that reaches 12,000 women and girls through 500+ centers every year. It won an award from UNESCO in 2017.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The Economist has called The Citizens Foundation (TCF) "perhaps the largest network of independently run schools in the world" with 12,000 female faculty making it the largest private employer of women in Pakistan and nearly 1,500 schools in 700 sites across Pakistan. See

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Fatima's family migrated to a village from the war-torn Afghan border region where Malala was shot. She didn't go to school; her father was against it. When TCF started literacy classes she agitated to join, then convinced her teacher to tutor her for school entrance exams. Fatima passed the exam and enrolled into 6th grade even though she had never been to school. Now she inspires younger kids to enroll and many TCF principals are informally helping out-of- girls enroll in middle school.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Pakistan is famous for extremist violence (Taliban) but it suffers from diverse types of violence depending on the area. Intolerance is high leading to ethnic and sectarian warfare, often against minorities, in the rural east. In Karachi, political and criminal urban warfare spins out of control. In the southeast, there is a civil war. Public social services like education and health do not function – low cost private services have mushroomed but exclude the poorest. People are uneducated, lack nourishment, marry young, and have large families that neither they nor their environment can sustain. Pakistan is already suffering the effects of climate change and Karachi, the world's fourth most populous city, has run out of water.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

TCF has a history of successful partnerships with local & international bodies for education expertise, technical know-how, and community development. In 2016, TCF & Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) jointly introduced a 7-month accelerated learning program to Grade 5 students at a TCF campus in rural Sindh to enable them to transition to grade 6, which saw baseline scores increased from 27% to 67%, average across subjects. In the same year, we ran a 10-week remedial program for 9000 students at 250 TCF-adopted government schools in Punjab. This program saw reading capability of 2nd graders rise from 7% to 46% in Urdu, & from 4% to 36% in English. For this project, TCF will also seek partnerships with community institutions who can lend existing buildings to serve as Community Learning Centers (CLCs), such as schools, mosques, basic health units. Using existing spaces will be cost-efficient, and such collaborations will create goodwill and expand outreach at a quicker pace.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Our biggest strength is TCF alumni, who remain committed to giving back to their communities. As this program will be implemented in areas where TCF already has successful presence, there is a familiarity with the local community, which builds trust and gains support for a new venture. In all areas, teachers, trainers and principals at TCF facilities have been hired from within the community itself, thereby empowering them to be the leaders of change for their own people.

Geographic Focus

The project will target economically and socially disadvantaged communities across Pakistan.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The estimated timeline is 36 months. The first 6 months of Year 1 will be conceptualization of the program, as per the needs of each target area. The next 6 months will focus on experimentation with the developed program, which will continuously be modified based on community feedback. Year 2 will be the gradual roll-out of the successful program model to areas demonstrating greatest need. In Year 3, we will scale the program to reach a wider community across Pakistan.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Nicole Ballou

Hello Nadia Naviwala 

Wow, what an amazing and important project! I appreciate how seriously you've taken this gendered approach to illiteracy. Our organization does vocational training for out-of-school youth and young adults in at-risk communities for child trafficking, and we have recently been revising our efforts to focus more on females. I would be interested in hearing more about the approaches you take to overcoming cultural barriers to women participating in education.

All the best,

Photo of Nadia Naviwala

Hi Nicole! Here is a case study that UN Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) had written about our model:

Fundamentally, there is a demand for girls education in Pakistan, but there is a problem with the supply. We solved for this by building schools within walking distance for girls and hiring only female teachers. We figured out how to achieved a nearly 50-50 ratio of girls to boys in the mid-1990s by listening to families.

Keep up the good work!


Photo of Nicole Ballou

Hi Nadia Naviwala !

Thank you for sending over the case study! Your philosophies around security, a female-only environment, and affordability were great to read about.


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