When we talk about complying with Article 25-A of the constitution of Pakistan we often think about enrolling as many children in schools as possible. However, there is much more to this than simply carrying out enrolment drives across the country. These children deserve to stay in school for a longer period and the barriers preventing them from continuing their education need to be removed. This requires taking a bottom-up approach, to ensure that local needs are taken into consideration during the decision-making process. To start with, there aren’t many schools in the country offering Secondary and Higher Secondary education.According to Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17, 79 per cent of the total public sector schools are at the primary level. The number reduces to 20 per cent in the case of middle, high and higher secondary schools combined.The brunt of this gradual decrease in school infrastructure (combined with unavailability of affordable transport facilities, poverty and opportunity costs of education)is borne by the children of Pakistan, where only 30 per cent of the children enrolled in Grade 1 make it to Grade 10. How can children, once enrolled in schools, be able to transition to the next level if there are no schools available to them close to home? Listening to the plight of one such child, Afsana, from village Jabbi of district Kohat, made a team of education experts realise that certain factors such as distance between school and a student’s home and a lack of affordable transport facilities to ease travel are the major barriers that are stopping our children from continuing their education. Afsana’s circumstances made the experts understand that this is not a demand side problem. The problem lies in the supply, where the existing school infrastructure is inaccessible to those who cannot afford to travel long distances due to economic and social factors. It is not that our children do not want to study rather, it is education being out of reach for many. Afsana, who dropped out of school after finishing primary education, is an epitome of the plight of girls not just of her own area but from all over the country. Several cultural and economic factors inhibit these girls from traveling long distances to school. Afsana and others students aspired to go to a school that was around 10 kilometres away — a distance unimaginable to travel on foot, also taking into consideration one’s safety. The experts, with their efforts to solve this crisis, wanted a solution that could easily fit in the existing education system while taking into account local dynamics i.e.something which is sustainable and does not involve a lot of financing. When solving a given problem, at times, a different set of eyes are needed to show you a different set of possibilities. The team of ‘Sustainable Transition and Retention in Delivering Education’ or short for STRIDE became those different set of eyes that allowed Afsana and others like her to resume their education after a hiatus of 3-4 years. It is not that our children do not want to study, rather it has to do with education being out of reach for many As per STRIDE, a specific school building does not need to shut down at the standard time of 2pm. Afternoon classes for middle and high level allow children of Jabbi village to resume their education, something that was considered a distant dream before STRIDE was implemented in their area. Other facilitations such as provision of transport ease students’ travel who previously had no energy to study due to their long travel routines. STRIDE therefore, ensures that students reach schools in a better condition in order to learn adequately. Enrolling and retaining millions of children in schools is no easy task but it’s definitely not impossible. Previous governments have made considerable efforts on this but it often seems that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. The next government, in order to keep up with their promise of provision of free and compulsory education, needs to embed cost-efficient and sustainable solutions like STRIDE into their systems. Afsana and her parents are profoundly happy of having a school at a walking distance of merely five minutes. Something that seemed impossible a few years back is now a reality for Afsana and other students alike. Such initiatives, with the support of local and provincial governments and the local communities, need to be scaled up so as to ensure that more and more children are enrolled and are adequately learning in schools. The writer is working as a Research Associate at the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) in Islamabad Published in Daily Times, July 18th 2018.