Stakeholders urge government to notify law on free and compulsory education

Expressing grave concern over the 2.2 million out-of-school children in the country, parliamentarians and stakeholders urged the government to immediately notify free and compulsory education (Article 25A) so that the goal of “ free and compulsory education for all” is achieved to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These consensus views were expressed at a national conference on the right to education organized by Awaz CDS-Pakistan, Pakistan Development Alliance and VSO Pakistan. The objective of this conference was to highlight progress, challenges and the way forward regarding the implementation of Section 25-A after 12 years of its creation.

Panelists included Awaz CDS Managing Director, Ziaur Rehman; President of the National Commission for the Rights of the Child, Afshan Tehseen; Zahra Arshad, Pakistan Education Coalition, Areeba Shahid of PYCA, Malik Ibrar Hussain, President of Pakistan Private Schools Association; Atif from All Pakistan Teachers Forum, Dr. Hammad Lanng, Ministry of Human Rights; Nafeesa Khattak, SDG4 Lead, Sub-Committee, National SDG Task Force; Punjab MPA and Chairperson of School Education Standing Committee, Aisha Nawaz Chaudhry; Shandana Gulzar-MNA and convened SDG 5, Javed Malik, Country Director of Malala Fund.

It is to be mentioned here that the Free and Compulsory Education Act was passed by Parliament in 2010. However, the government has yet to notify it in the Federal Capital and Punjab despite the passage of several years.

Initiating the discussion, Awaz CDS CEO Ziaur Rehman said that due to the delay in notifying the law, Pakistan is behind in achieving the education SDG.

“As a developing state, we cannot afford to lag behind in achieving the SDGs, especially in education, which is key to progress and sustainability,” he said. he points out.

He mentioned that parliamentarians are visionary and determined to strengthen the education system and girls’ education. He urged them to highlight the demand for education at the lower sector level and to treat education as an emergency and especially secondary education for girls.

Nafeesa Khattak said parliament would be committed to pressuring the government to notify the law. She said the government has engaged the ulema as well as private schools to encourage their contribution to the One National Curriculum (SNC), but it needs to enter the implementation phase to achieve the education goals. SNC is a balanced approach in public schools, while Madaris must provide quality education alongside religious education.

In her remarks, NCRC Chairperson Afshan Tehseen mentioned with concern that 2.2 million children are out of school in the country, which needs to be controlled. She regretted that Pakistan committed 4% of the national budget for education but only allocated 2.8%. “We can make education a priority program if the government allocates a significant part of the budget to this sector and if collective efforts are ensured by all stakeholders,” she remarked.

Punjab MPA Shamim Aftab stressed the need to involve all stakeholders as well as parliamentarians to ensure the implementation of Article 25-A. “The government should engage civil society to bring about change by ensuring education for all children,” she said.

Ayesha Nawaz, another MPA from Punjab, said education is the priority of the current government. She also shared that the Punjab Standing Committee on Education also passed the Amendment Bill to immediately notify the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2014. She also assured that in the next session, this bill will hopefully be passed by the assembly.

Shandana Gulzar, Head of SDG5 Sub-Committee, National SDG Task Force, Chair of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, urged to keep girls on par with boys in education and life choices by ensuring equality chances. She further emphasized that gender equality cannot be achieved if girls remain out of the discourse in education.

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