Prime Minister Imran Khan formally opened the Ehsaas Education Stipends programme today. He was briefed on the countrywide scale-up, and massive enhancement of the Ehsaas Education Stipends from primary to secondary and higher secondary education.
Education Conditional Cash Transfers are a significant pillar of Ehsaas and are included in the Ehsaas framework as Policy#73, ‘Education Conditional Cash Transfers.’ Education Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) serve the dual purpose of socially assisting vulnerable households, and at the same time, reduce the number of out-of-school children, which is an important outcome for Pakistan, given that there are 18.7 million out-of-school children in the country.
Pakistan has been running an Education Conditional Cash Transfer for primary school-going children called Waseela-e-Taleem since 2012 in selected districts. The program encountered a number of challenges, including the high administrative cost charged by NGOs that were administering the program; high error and fraud due to the program being paper-based; weak compliance monitoring and unpredictability associated with the program being run by NGOs; limited human resource to enroll students into the program; low stipend amount being given to children; being limited to 5th grade and not including secondary education, whereas the latter could be of high impact for the program; not providing an additional incentive for girls, overall and missing the opportunity to incentivize girls education through this CCT; and above all, it did not include an incentive to address the issue of school drop out for girls, which is a major problem in girls’ education.
Studies reveal that the school drop-out rate increases with age, especially for girls in classes 5 to 8, owing to the distance from the school and other associated costs. The previously run education CCT was limited in geographic scope and lacked appropriate federal-provincial partnerships. Also, payments to beneficiaries were being made through the old BISP payment system, which was plagued by many challenges.
Ehsaas Education Stipends address all these challenges. First, cost-effective institutional infrastructure has been developed to implement this program nationwide, and reliance on NGOs has been eliminated. Because of this, the operational cost has been reduced from 8 percent to 3 percent. The end-to-end digitization of several processes has eliminated the space for abuse in terms of ineligible children being enrolled. Rather than reliance on NGOs, compliance monitors have been hired and a Project Monitoring Unit has been established.
Also, through an MOU with the National Commission on Human Development, additional 1,000 staff members have been engaged to enroll students. The stipend amount has been doubled for primary school-going children and has been further increased for girls. The program gives stipends from age 4-22 years, i.e., from primary to the higher secondary levels. As per Ehsaas’ weighted-in-favor-of-girls stipends policy for all conditional cash transfer programs, girls get a higher stipend across all age groups, which signals the government’s intent to facilitate girls’ education.
Briefing the PM on newly rolled out education CCT under Ehsaas, Dr. Sania said,
Primary school children are provided Ehsaas Education Stipends of Rs. 1,500 for boy child and Rs. 2,000 per quarter for girl child. Secondary school children are granted Ehsaas Education Stipends of Rs. 2,500 for boys and Rs. 3,000 per quarter for girls. Students of higher secondary level are given Rs. 3,500 for boys and Rs. 4,000 per quarter for girls. The Ehsaas Education Stipends program with a higher incentive for girls will encourage parents to send their children, particularly girls, to schools
Prime Minister also announced a one-time Ehsaas graduation bonus of Rs. 3,000 to encourage girls to complete primary education. This award is being given to girl students completing Grade 5 from Ehsaas eligible families. The graduation bonus has been designed to encourage girls’ education till secondary level.
The program has been extended nationwide to 160 districts. MOUs have been signed with all provinces and federating units to ensure their collaboration since they are responsible for supply-side matters (quality of schools) in this program. Payments to beneficiaries are made through the new fully biometric payment system, with markedly improved features.
Under the nationwide Ehsaas Education Stipends program, students aged 4-22 years of all Ehsaas beneficiary families are eligible to get education stipends.
Ehsaas, the Pakistan government’s flagship poverty alleviation program, has introduced concrete measures to ensure that women and girls are given the same support as boys and men at every level. More than three-quarters of its entire program’s benefits are dedicated to women and girls under the “Ehsaas 50+ benefits policy for women and girls.”
All of the eight million beneficiaries of the Ehsaas Kafaalat cash transfer scheme and the Ehsaas One Women One Account financial inclusion initiative are women. In addition to the education CCT, Ehsaas Nashonuma (which provides specialized nutritious food and cash transfers to children and their mothers to prevent the occurrence of stunting through centers in the most disadvantaged districts of the country) also has a higher stipend policy for the girl child. Under Ehsaas’ undergraduate scholarship scheme, need- and merit-based scholarships are given to hundreds of thousands of students in Pakistan, with strictly half of all scholarships reserved for girls. Delivery on the 50+ benefits for women and girls’ metrics is rigorously followed up.