Increase font size Decrease font size Reset font size

Constitutional guarantee doesn`t serve purpose Practical steps for free education sought

By Our Staff Reporter 2012-07-19
LAHORE, July 18: Mere insertion of Article 25-A (right to free and compulsory education in Pakistan) in the Constitution of Pakistan cannot ensure the fundamental right of children aged 516 years until practical steps are planned and implemented.

This is the consensus among more than one million children and adults, who inscribed their signatures in the One Million Signature Campaign launched by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in collaboration with different organisations working for the cause of education on March 6.

The organisation plans to present the one million signatures along with demands to political parties at a `Dialogue with political parties to priortise education and implement Article 25-A` at a local hotel on Thursday (today).

The ITA had launched the One Million Signature Campaign to muster up public support to persuade provincial governments to work towards making a law that would define and elaborate modalities of implementation of the constitutional provision. Regrettably, even after the passage of two years when the Article 25A was made part of the Constitution through 18th constitutional amendment, no substantial steps had been taken for the implementation of the Article 25-A.

While, the prevailing status of education also presents a bleak picture with 20 per cent out-of-school children and learning levels as low as 50 per cent students at the verge of completing Grade-V, withouthaving an ability to read Urdu sentences as depicted by the Annual Status of Education Report 2011 launched early this year. In all, as many as 1.003 million citizens of Pakistan including 832,132 children signed the charter of demands for free and compulsory quality education the core objective of the signature campaign.

The organisation also received 77,206 signatures online on its Facebook and through SMS.

The summary of the One Million Signature Campaign shows almost halfa-million children and adults in Punjab marked their signatures in the campaign to advocate five demands for the promulgation and implementation of Right to Education law. Precisely, as many as 489,868 signatures were collected from children (450,661) and adults (39,207) in Punjab. In Sindh, 203,326 signatures were collected that included 190,270 signatures by children.

Similarly, as many as 90,870 signatures including 72,900 by children were collected from Khyber Pakhtunkhua, while in Balochistan, some 50,487 citizens including 38,147 children signed the campaign.

In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 25,336 citizens including 24,732 children and 3,967 children in FATA signed the charter of demands for free and compulsory quality education.

Talking to Dawn on Wednesday, ASER Pakistan Programme Manager Safyan Jabbar said the ITA would present the one million signatures (collected fromMarch 6 to July 10) along with charter of five demands to political parties` representatives at the dialogue scheduled for Thursday.

He said the charter of demands aimed at acknowledgement of access to education as a fundamental right for all children of 5-16 years age group, pledging to draft an Education Act in each province as per requirements through a series of public debate and consultation within two years of coming in power.

Mr Jabbar said the charter also wanted that at least four per cent of the GDP should be allocated for education sector and steps be laid down to ensure that the amount was fully utilised for improving access to quality education with children being the direct beneficiaries. The provincial governments should also devise transparent mechanisms for teacher appointment and evaluation.

He said the charter also called for addressing issues of access and equity in troubled areas such as FATA and formulating actionable steps on how discrimination would be curbed at all levels with respect to gender, caste, religion and so forth. Finally, he said, feasible steps should be taken to achieve or at least come close to the Millennium Development Goals for All.

Mr Jabbar said all political parties had pledged their dedication for the cause of imparting quality education, budgetary spending, gender-based priority and private sector involvement in their respective manifestos.