Leadership and community mobilization for education access to marginalized communities : The case of an NGO in Sindh, Pakistan

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


Education can uplift individuals, families and nations from poverty and enable their socio-economic mobility, and for that reason, achieving universal access to education has been included in several international and national memorandums. The United Nations, in 1948, declared education a basic human right. World’s leaders came together in Dakar (2000), then in New York (2015) and set the global ‎agenda for ensuring equitable education access for all. Generally, it is state’s responsibility to ensure education provision but sadly, the current education situation in Pakistan shows the bleak picture of government’s interventions and successes in the sector. For decades, Pakistan has faced serious challenges and setbacks to fulfill its promises on the above commitments, as around 22.6 million children are out of schools today. Non-government organizations (NGOs) have emerged as alternatives to help the government and communities to catch up and fulfill the local-global promises. Like the government, NGOs have also been contested in the literature between being solution and problem to providing affordable, relevant, quality and sustainable education to the marginalized communities. Against these local-global realities and theorizations, this qualitative case study explored how a local educational NGO, through its leaders’ thoughts and actions mobilized underprivileged communities to increase their children’s access to quality education. The study’s findings are consistent in describing NGO’s and its schools’ positive role in making education accessible. It is found that providing education access in the economically deprived, religiously fragile and politically charged conditions of rural Sindh demand more complex, creative and yet contextualized approaches. The NGO (AAS, pseudonym) and its schools considerably expanded access of quality education to the public through the clear policy-practice match in maintaining standard education, social mobilization, inclusiveness, subsidized-fee and social capacity-building projects. Apart from these, (a) the schools’ proximity, (b) excellent infrastructural facilities, (c) safe learning environment, (d) educational opportunities and (e) committed local female teachers, -- all improved access, quality, sustainability, relevance and community’s emotional engagement and advocacy of the schools. An important finding was the establishment of schools’ direct relationships with communities and individuals instead of using specially designed structures like school management committees. Community mobilization took place and sustained due to highly committed and culturally informed NGO’s and schools’ leadership. They aligned their organizational mission and policies with the contextual nuances. As a result, schools’ interventions were not seen a threat to local traditions and norms. AAS’s schools accomplishments to reach out poor families ultimately depended on the deep trust, persistent work, resilience, knowledge and respect for local realities by their leaders. In addition, 1) upholding accountability; 2) collaborating with donor agencies; 3) engaging civil societies; and 4) fostering learning and hospitality at schools were the leadership’s key successful strategies. These best practices for education access should be included in the curriculum of leadership development trainings. Public and private sectors may adopt these successful strategies to address the global accessibility issue of education collectively. Key words: Equitable education access, Leadership, NGOs, Community mobilization, Marginalized communities, Out-of-school children, SDG, Pakistan.

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