Thursday July 25, 2024

‘No major intervention to implement right to education laws’

By Khalid Khattak
January 01, 2017

LAHORE: Like previous years,  no major intervention was witnessed  by the provincial governments  in Pakistan vis-à-vis  the implementation of right to  education (RTE) laws during  year 2016.  And this is despite the concern  expressed by a UN body—  Committee on the Rights of the  Child (CRC)—in May this year.  The committee had expressed  concern over lack of compulsory  education laws in Khyber-  Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-  Baltistan and poor enforcement  of the RTE laws in provinces  areaswhere they exist.  The historic Article 25-A  which makes free and compulsory  education a right to all children  of the age of 5 to 16 years  was inserted into the Constitution  of Pakistan on April 19,  2010.  Despite the passage of six  years Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and  Gilgit-Baltistan have yet to introduce  respective necessary  legislationwhilewhere the laws  exist including Islamabad Capital  Territory (ICT), Punjab,  Sindh and Balochistan the subordinate  legislation—the formulation  of rules of business—  is lacking without which  implementation of the laws is  not possible.  It is learnt the Sindh government  has almost completed its  work on the rules of business  for its RTE law and is likely to  introduce them soon. The Punjab  government is also deliberating  on the rules though nothing  concrete is in sight.  One can hope that the governments  wake up from deep  slumber and one sees some tangible  work where the laws are  lacking and taking forward the  implementation of RTE laws  where these exist in 2017.  On the front of public financing  of education, Khyber-  Pakhtunkhwa government took  a lead over other provinces as it  allocated 25 percent of its total  budget to education. The other  provinces including Punjab allocated  20 percent of their total  budget to education.  On the development and  non-salary budget in education,  the Punjab government however  left others far behind by allocating  Rs 44 billion as development  budget and Rs 33  billion as non-salary budget.  The Sindh government,  however, remained close to the  Punjab government in nonsalary  budget (which the experts  termthe real development  budget) as it allocated Rs 31 billion  under this head.  As the Millennium Development  Goals (MDGs) retired in  2015 and new Sustainable Development  Goals (SDGs) are in  place, it is unfortunate to note  that the response to these international  commitments remains  vague to date. The SDG No.4  pertains to education and the  new goal is “to ensure inclusive  and equitable quality education  and promote lifelong learning  opportunities for all.”  The quality aspect in public  schooling has long been put on  the back burner and this is evident  from the fact that anyone  who can afford prefers to send  his or her children to private  schools instead of a public  school where education is free  and even textbooks are provided  free.  This makes the new goal really  challenging as under the  goal the governments are supposed  to ensure not just education  but equitable “quality” education.  And obviously we are  not achieving this goal if only  the private sector strives for  quality.  Though inclusivity remains  a distant dream, one can hope  that this long neglected rather  forgotten aspect in different  spheres of life particularly in  education may attract some attention  of those at the helm.  Understandingmagnitude of  the problem related to promotion  of lifelong learning opportunities  “for all” becomes easy  with some statistics. A joint policy  paper by the UNESCO Institute  for Statistics (UIS) and the  Global Education Monitoring  (GEM) Report released in July  2016 revealed that 8 percent of  the world’s out-of-school children  lived in Pakistan. According  to the report out of 263 million  such children and youth  worldwide some 21.5million of  them were from Pakistan.  A number of factors contribute  to this disappointing  scenariowhich socio-economic  conditions on the top. Themissing  facilities in public schools  are also linked to the growing  number of the out-of-school  population in Pakistan. While  hundreds of public schools still  lack basic facilities like toilets,  boundary walls and electricity,  thousands of sanctioned teaching  posts in schools remain vacant  making mockery of repeated  political rhetoric of  “prioritizing” education.  In Punjab, on the higher education  side, the issue related  to sub-campuses of public universities  established under public-  private partnership remained  a subject of heated  debate and demonstration by  the students enrolled. The situation  remained tense particularly  in the provincial metropolis  on several occasions when  the students of BZU Lahore  campus students protested on  roads and caused immense  problems for the commuters.  It was first time in the history  that the tenure of a sitting  Vice Chancellorwas terminated  during 2016. Prof Dr Muhammad  Khalique Ahmed, VC of  Ghazi University, Dera Ghazi  Khan, was shown the doors for  violating the rules for leaving  the station without approval of  the chancellor/governor. A  massive rally was also taken  out by the college teachers in  late 2016 against the Higher Education  Department Punjab for  ignoring them vis-à-vis promotions  and other issues.