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September 8, 2015

Education in Sindh: a lost ship in dire need of a map


September 8, 2015

If free and fair education is the Fountain of Youth, then Sindh might as well be described as the Black Pearl, aimlessly sailing towards it without directions or a map.
As foreign aid pours in, it sways the Pearl here or there. The wind changes the direction of the ship, at times even swaying it farther away from its destination of providing free education to all children in the province.
Though Sindh’s was the first ship in the country to have set sail towards the Fountain of Youth with the enactment of the Free and Fair Education Act in 2013, in the absence of clear directions - the Rules of Business for this legislation - the ship seems to have lost its way.
The Rules of Business of any legislation provide the procedure and guidelines for making a law operational and enable it to be institutionalised by the state machinery.
“You need Rules of Business to translate legislation into official procedures,” explained Barrister Zahid Jamil, a senior lawyer.
“Though the rules have little use for the public, without them a law might as well be useless because it can’t be made operational without clear guidelines about its implementation.”
In fact, it is not just Sindh, but other provinces of the country too have been unable to come up with the Rules of Business for their respective free and fair education laws passed after the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s is the ship trailing farthest behind as it remains without a right to education law even after five years of the enactment of Article 25-A in the Constitution.

Pearl’s (re)awakening
The senior crewmembers of the Pearl seem to have begun realising how far they have strayed from their destination.
But before they can go on and make the Free and Fair Education Act, 2013 operational, they need to take stock of the landscape and make sure that the Pearl is up for the tough journey ahead.

“There was just too much to do with a new scandal every other day to work on the Rules of Business,” remarked a senior official in the education and literacy department on the condition of anonymity. “To be honest, the process just got delayed on account of bureaucratic red-tapism,” the official added.
“There is an acute shortage of qualified staff. A lot of officials who are part of the department aren’t qualified enough while others aren’t willing to come here and deal with the mammoth issues plaguing the education sector because of its tarnished reputation.”
However, the education secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho recently set up a committee of stakeholders and foreign donors to sit down and devise the much-needed Rules of Business for the free and fair education law.
“The committee will begin working this week. It includes members of educational research and advocacy groups and representatives of international donors who have pledged their monetary support,” Dr Pechuho said.
Last year, the department came up with a five-year plan in the Sindh Education Sector Plan (SESP) 2014 which provided guidelines about achieving education-related goals at an estimated overall cost of Rs940 billion.
The plan was to take the policies outlined in the SESP and work with all the stakeholders, especially the local ones, to improve the declining enrolment rates and gather dynamic data for the resolution of the existing problems.
Another aspect of the plan was to make arrangements for early learning for children between three and five years so that they could assimilate better in the school environment.
In January this year, the Sindh School Education Standards and Curriculum Act 2015 was passed by the provincial assembly.
Ironically, the Rules of Business for this law are almost ready and just need to be notified while those of the Free and Fair Education Act 2013 have yet to be worked upon.

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