14 March, 2013

Punjab Can't Achieve Target of Free and Compulsory Education for All Before 2041

While Balochistan and Sindh have passed an ordinance and a bill respectively to implement article 25A of the constitution, Punjab is still struggling to formally recognize the right of every child to free and compulsory education.

Though ahead of other provinces, Punjab with an enrollment of only 61 percent is still facing a dire education emergency. At the current rate of progress, Punjab will not be able to provide all children with their constitutional right to education for another 28 years. It will be 2041 before Punjab achieves universal enrollment.  

Speaking at a seminar organized by Alif Ailaan in Lahore, Waqas Jafri, Deputy Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami said: “The ultimate responsibility of delivering education rests with the government. The fact that we are still facing an education emergency depicts the failure of the state and past governments. Education is the silver bullet, it is the solution to all the problems Pakistan is facing. Improvement in provision of education to all will be an important measure of success for the new government.”

Currently, only two-thirds of primary school age children are enrolled in schools in Punjab and among those who attend, half drop out before completing primary level education. According to official figures the drop-out rates at primary level in Punjab are higher than that in KP.

Speaking at the seminar, Abbas Rashid, Chairman of Society for Advancement of Education (SAHE) said: “Ensuring access to education to all children in Pakistan between the ages of 5 years and 16 years under article 25A requires great political will, planning and resource mobilisation. Ensuring access, however, is only one part of the equation. Equally challenging is the task of providing quality, simultaneously. For access to education without quality does not really add up to much.”

Parents, teachers, civil society activitists and political representatives present at the event agreed that the 2013 elections represent an opportunity to ensure education is prioritised on the national agenda.

Prominent lawyer, Rafay Alam said: “With elections around the corner, we must work to remind election candidates of their responsibilities. We are entitled to ask them what they plan on doing to improve literacy in Pakistan. And now, with the 18th Amendment, they are bound to answer us.”

At present only 1.8 percent of the national GDP is being spent on education. Unfortunately, even this limited budget is not well spent by the provinces. In the past two years, 11 per cent and 12 per cent of the allocated budget was not spent and under-spending was equivalent to Rs17.78 billion and Rs23.21 billion in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively. In 2011-12, the unspent amount was more than twice the total spending of the federal government on primary and secondary education.

Nothing but political will is needed to fix the system. If the education emergency in Pakistan is to end, the new government will have to urgently address the education crisis in its first quarter.


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