LAHORE: Despite a lapse of complete 10 years no provincial government or federating unit, except for Sindh, has made Right to Education (RTE) law a reality exposing widespread apathy among those at the helm vis-à-vis rights and public-interest legislation.
The Article 25-A, inserted into the Constitution in April, 2010, after the historic 18th Amendment, made “free and compulsory education” a right to all children of the age from 5 to 16 in Pakistan.
Subsequently, after the introduction of Article 25-A the RTE laws were constitutional requirement to be fulfilled by the provincial governments and the federating units. Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) was the first one to introduce the Right to Education Act in 2012 followed by Sindh in 2013, Punjab and Balochistan in 2014 while among provinces Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was the late comer by introducing its RTE law in 2017—seven years after the Article 25-A became part of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) governments have yet to introduce their respective RTE laws. While all the four provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory have introduced the RTE Acts, only Sindh province has so far succeeded in introducing subordinate legislation—the rules of business. ICT though prepared the rules of business has yet to notify the same.
It is pertinent to mention that the RTE Acts are toothless sans rules of business as these laws can’t be implemented without rules in place. “The rulers have wasted a complete decade, no wonder if they miss another,” commented a concerned citizen, Amjad. “I still remember, I was very excited to witness history in the making through the introduction of 18th Amendment,” he said and added “But, honestly, I had no idea the governments would be so indifferent to ensure the provision of this fundamental right of education to our children.”
It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan is among the countries that missed most of the education related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that retired in 2015. Afterwards the same year Pakistan like all United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development where Sustainable Development Goals (SDG No-4) pertaining to education is aimed to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
It is therefore education rights activists and educationists argue that the SGD 4 could only be achieved by ensuring implementation of the RTE laws in letter and spirit.
Because of the ongoing global crisis in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, there is general perception that the pandemic would also hit RTE related efforts in Pakistan and would further slow down the process for quite some time as like many struggling economies Pakistan was also hit hard by coronavirus pandemic.
Undoubtedly, the implementation of Article 25-A is a huge challenge primarily because of enormity of the task as more schools, classrooms and teachers and funds for non-development expenditures are required. Nonetheless, sluggish response to the challenge from the governments is more worrying as the governments, over the years, failed to increase its financial resources for this cause.
“Unfortunately, education has never been a priority of any government in Pakistan,” said Baela Raza Jamil, CEO Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA).
Expressing concern over delay in the introduction of RTE laws related rules, she said education seemed important in manifestos of all political parties but in reality education did not get due attention.
The Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) which had launched the Right to Education campaign several years ago closely monitors the RTE related developments in Pakistan.
Baela Raza Jamil further said of all over estimated 20 million out-of-school children (OOSC) in Pakistan, some 70 percent were of post-primary level for whom the government did not establish new schools over the years. She said the governments did not amplify its resources for education all along owing to which true implementation of the RTE laws had indeed become a huge challenge.
Baela Raza Jamil appreciated the incumbent government for its education-related initiatives particularly the launch of education TV for children during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic saying the same should continue even after the ongoing crisis as the initiative was equally helpful for the out-of-school children.
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