It’s been two years since the government inserted Article 25-A into the Constitution, remarked Baela Raza Jamil, the Idara-i-Taleem-o-Agahi programmes director, “but what have we achieved?”
She was speaking at a press conference at the Lahore Press Club on Thursday, arranged by the non-government organisation, to mark the second anniversary of the inclusion of Article 25-A into the Constitution that guarantees provision of free education to children aged between five and 16.
She described the situation as “gloomy” and quoted the 2011 ASER report, according to which as many as 20 per cent of children (from 5-16) are not in school. She said that no “substantial step” had been taken by the government to ensure provision of free education to children.
The Idara-i-Taleem-o-Agahi had launched its One Million Signature Campaign on March 6. Its aim was to collect a million signatures on a petition demanding that the governments take actions necessary to provide the right guaranteed under Article 25-A.
Commenting on the campaign, Jamil said that they had succeeded in getting 500,000 signatures. She described the collection of half the signatures as an “achievement”.
Ayesha Bilal, the Right to Education Campaign’s programme manager, said the response to the campaign had been “very encouraging”. Of the 500,000 signatures, more than 80 per cent are children’s, she said. The campaign’s aim is to collect 900,000 signatures from children and adolescents, up to 18 years, and the rest from adults.
The campaign now hopes to achieve the one million target by May 30.
Bilal also welcomed the Lahore High Court’s directions to the Punjab government to explain by April 27 why it had failed to meet its obligations under Article 25-A.
While presenting an update on the million signatures campaign, the ITA listed six demands, which are supported by other stakeholders that include the National Commission for Human Development, the Foundation Open Society Institute, the Pakistan Coalition for Education and the Child Rights Movement.
The demands included a call for immediate legislation by the federal and the provincial governments to ensure free education to children, along with transparent drafting and implementation process. They also called for allocation of at least 4 per cent of the GDP to education and allocation of 70 per cent of the total education budget to ensure implementation of Article 25-A.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2012.