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November 7, 2019

Government committed to education reforms: Wajiha

Islamabad

November 7, 2019

Islamabad : Praising the Pakistan Coalition for Education, a network of civil society organisations, for striving to bring about change in the country’s education system through policy advocacy and civic engagement, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Federal Education and Professional Training Wajiha Akram on Wednesday said the government was committed to education reforms.

“The major initiatives taken by this government in the education sector include seminary reforms to the mainstreaming of their students for their empowerment and development, promotion of financial access to education, especially for poor girls, under the Ehsaas Programme, and development of a single national curriculum. They all show our commitment to the cause of education in the country,” she told a daylong PCE event ‘Bol Kay Lab Azaad Hain Teray’ held here at the PAFSOM Arena in celebration of the ideals reflected in Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poetry – that of social justice and equality.

The youth-based and youth-led art event highlighted issues like girls’ education, inclusivity and women’s empowerment using visual and performing art, while poet Kishwar Naheed, theatre practitioner and rights activist Sheema Kermani and academic Dr Taimur Rehman were noted among those in attendance.

The parliamentary secretary said the PCE deserved commendation for the effective engagement of stakeholders and commitment to keeping the people’s demands in consideration during policy processes and she would support it and others for the development of the education sector in the country along modern lines.

PCE national coordinator Zehra Arshad said the event was premised on the hope that the artwork produced would communicate how absolutely imperative it is to empower girls and women to build a stronger future, to mainstream a soft image of Pakistan and stir an emotional awakening and a sense of responsibility among the policymakers and citizens alike to make the well-being of girls and youth the highest priority in the country.

She said entertainment was usually associated with art but it could be used as a tool of empowerment.

“This event is focused on how art can be used to create change in the thinking and lives of young girls. It is meant to amplify the voices of the youth, most importantly girls, to demand fulfillment of their constitutional rights through artistic expression, be it visual or performative,” she said.

Kishwar Naheed said young girls and women should learn to prioritise and respect themselves from an early age and have a firm belief in their own capabilities with odds stacked against them in every walk of life.

Abia Akram, the first Pakistani woman with disability to be nominated as the Coordinator for Commonwealth Young Disabled People’s Forum, educated participants on ableism, diversity, and inclusion.

“There’s a communication gap that exists when it comes to the education of girls with disabilities. Brails are absent in schools, teachers are not well-equipped to teach students with disabilities. We need to focus on our efforts to increase awareness and practical measures to alleviate the problems of children with disabilities,” she said.

Sheema Kermani performed on Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s legendary poem ‘Aaj Kay Naam’.

She said art was a medium that reflected the fabric of society.

“We can use performing arts to unlearn and undo the socially-constructed barriers that restrict girls’ freedoms in our patriarchal society,” she said.

Hanantah, a six-year-old activist, gave an extremely impassioned speech about the gender parity that existed within the society and the education system and left the audience pondering over pertinent questions with respect to the social injustices and the compounded struggles for women in society.

The participants later endorsed a charter of demands presented by organisers for 12 years free, equitable and inclusive public education for girls, increase in the annual education budget to the minimum 4-6 per cent of the GDP and 15-20 per cent of the total public expenditure, immediate steps to enrol 22.6 million out-of-school children, including 12.6 million girls, and amendment to Article 25-A of the Constitution to extend mandatory schooling to 12 years, and its effective enforcement.

The event also featured a play ‘Bachiyan Jab Parhti Hain Tou Qaumain Agay Barhti Hain’, which highlighted the issue of barriers to women’s education and empowerment in the country.

The parliamentary secretary gave away cash prizes to the winners of art completion, while certificates and shields were distributed to the participants of an art competition.

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