Thursday November 30, 2023

SHC seeks govt’s comments over pleas for implementation of child protection laws

November 18, 2023
The Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — Facebook/The High Court of Sindh, Karachi
The Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — Facebook/The High Court of Sindh, Karachi 

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the education department, child protection authority and others to file comments with regard to implementation of various laws pertaining to child education, orphanages and child protection in the province.

The direction came on identical petitions with regard to the implementation of various laws pertaining to the welfare of orphans and other children. A counsel for the petitioners submitted that for appropriate orders on these petitions, the content of the pleas be separated subject-wise so that each component may be decided in accordance with the law.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Acting Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi directed that the list of petitions be filed through statement by the counsel for the petitioners which shall be fixed subject-wise separately on the next date of hearing.

The high court directed the counsel to file an amended title by impleading necessary parties so that appropriate orders may be passed after hearing all the parties concerned. The bench directed the Sindh education department, social welfare department, child protection authority and others to file comments on the petitions by December 19.

The high court had earlier directed the chief secretary to submit concrete and definite proposals for ensuring that children of school-going age who are not enrolled or attending schools were brought into the school system and ensure implementation of the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act as well as the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act.

Filing a statement before the court, the school education secretary submitted that the education department was facing shortage of schools buildings, teachers and furniture, and other governance-related issues such as uneven proportion of primary and secondary schools.

The education secretary disclosed that thousands of teachers used to be absent from duties in collusion with lower education staff. He submitted that as many as 4,533 teachers were found absent from their duties and action was being taken against them as per the rules.

He submitted that 5,970 closed schools would be reopened within four months and about 300,000 out-of-school children would rejoin schools. He submitted that 900 more schools would be upgraded within the next two years to decrease the number of out-of-school children.

The SHC also earlier directed the government to submit details regarding steps being taken to motivate the parents to send their out-of-school children to schools.

The education department informed the bench that 4,351,148 students, including 2,694,245 boys and 1,656,903 girls, were presently enrolled in 40,796 government schools of the province, while 3,044,260 children were enrolled in privately managed schools.

The education department had submitted that 44,219 schools had been established in different districts on the basis of requirements or need of specific areas, whereas, there were 6,407 shelter-less schools in the province and the department had also notified a policy for the shelter-less schools.

The education department had mentioned that there were 649,044 students enrolled in madrasas (seminary schools) as per the data received from the home department.

The Sindh Child Protection Authority director general had submitted in a report that there were 30 child protection officers and 30 child protection units in the province. He had mentioned that the authority had so far dealt with 4,439 cases related to child protection.

The social welfare department had submitted that there were 2,301 children enrolled in different public and private orphanages in Karachi, of whom 1,952 children were attending schools while 349 were not attending schools due to some reasons.

Rights activists and welfare organisations had filed the petitions seeking the implementation of the 2013 law that made it incumbent on the government to ensure free and compulsory education of children from six till 16 years. They also sought implementation of the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act as well as orphanage laws. They submitted that thousands of street children were roaming in the city and several were being used in criminal activities, begging and other anti-social activities.