Can the banking sector help Pakistan’s education crisis?

Published: December 11, 2013
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If all Pakistani banks agreed on the ‘change agent’ proposal, they can bring in a self-sustainable revolution, end up giving jobs to 10,000+ unemployed educated individuals and educate more than one million street worker kids, all the while earning profits.

Pakistan is going through an economic crisis. It has been years since the nation has been suffering. For more than 60 years, the nation has put up with different politicians and military dictators. We have no one but ourselves to blame. We are the one who welcomed each of these rulers as our saviours.

Despite all of these governing problems, we see that the private sector has sustained itself, and is growing no matter what the circumstances may be.

A recent study shows that large private sector organisations can impact the country’s GDP by working on becoming more efficient and improving their internal systems (mechanisms).

The question here is, are these private sector organisations making their contribution or doing enough to solve the social and economic problems of the country?

They make profits every year, yes, but their contribution to the ex-chequer goes down the drain due to administrative discrepancies. These organisations can do a lot to improve the lives of the common man and the country’s social problems.

But why will they do it in the absence of money?

Why would they start social initiatives without an incentive?

We need to understand that these businesses are out there for money.

Harvard Business School strategy professor Michael Porter in a TED talk proved that NGO’s alone cannot solve social problems. They are doing a lot but they cannot scale it because they don’t have the money. The money is with the big private corporations, but they don’t see any monetary benefits coming out helping out with social issues.

I personally believe that private organisations in Pakistan can do a lot in solving our social problems, all the while earning revenue and profits and here is how I think such corporations could be helpful to both, the country and themselves:

Taking the education sector as an example, it is not difficult to understand that illiteracy is one of the biggest threats to our already depreciating economy. Around 1.5 million children are currently working on the streets in Pakistan because they cannot afford schools.

Keeping that in mind, let’s look now at the banking sector.

Statistics show that 86% of the Pakistani population is unbanked, which means they don’t have bank accounts – they don’t use insurance or any other financial products. This indicates that this particular sector still has a lot more potential. With more than 60 banks, 10,000 branches, 5000 ATMs, and continuous growth, shows that this business is profitable. Profits are earned despite 86% of the population being absent from their market.

Have you ever seen a bank advertisement saying, ‘open a bank account, it can be beneficial for you’?

No. And that is because they always sell their products instead of inviting the general public to the bank, and the same goes for the insurance sector.

My simple proposal is that banks should adopt ‘change agents’.

These agents will be educated people from a particular vicinity who are employed by the bank on the payroll of a contractual third party. Their duties will include coming to the bank to work from 12pm to 8pm.

For the first half of the day, from 12pm to 4pm, they would have to work at the bank selling various services offered by the bank to possible customers.

In the second half however, from 5pm to 8pm, they will have to teach underprivileged children, whose parents will have registered them at the area branch. In order to register the child, it would be mandatory for the parents to open bank accounts.

In this way, not only do banks ensure that their products are being sold, but are working towards a social cause as well. Change agents can teach an hourly class of 15 pupils and teach a maximum of 45 kids daily.

Then the bank can issue special ATM cards to these children and they can give their monthly tests on ATM screens. On getting good grades, these children can get instant cash rewards (sponsored by other brands) which they can save in their respective accounts. Not only does this provide an incentive to children to learn, but provides banks with customers and the added benefit of a profile of a socially active organisation, which in turn would attract sponsors.

If all Pakistani banks agreed on adopting the ‘change agent’ principle, a self-sustainable revolution can be brought in that would end up giving jobs to 10,000+ unemployed educated individuals and educate more than one million street children.

The banks make their profits as usual, only this time it would be with the added benefit of being known as a ‘humanitarian’ bank working for social causes. Not only will this attract more clients towards that particular bank, it would make sure the industry kept growing.

Banks make the money, children get education; it’s a win-win situation for all!

Bilal Ahmad

Bilal Ahmad

A firm believer in Pakistan and entrepreneurship, and COO for Bulls Eye Communications. Founder of a few exciting upcoming startups. He tweets as @chBilaal (twitter.com/chBilaal)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.