Participants at a consultation on compulsory education for all children criticised the government on Thursday for setting aside funds for Daanish schools and laptops schemes.
They said such schemes risked to ensuring free and compulsory education for all children as required under Article 25-A of the Constitution.
The consultation on Prioritising Education and Implementing Article25-A was organised by the Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi at Avari Hotel. The participants included members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI).
Dr Asma Mamdot, a PML-F MPA, said primary education must be the priority. She said she was willing to forego funds at her discretion if this could ensure quality education was provided to children.
“How can initiatives like Daanish schools and laptop schemes be implemented when basic primary education is not available to so many children?” said Dr Nasira Javed Iqbal, president of the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan. Dr Iqbal said the government’s initiatives were “discriminatory.” She also criticised political parties for naming public welfare schemes after political figures. “Who gave them the right… the money comes from the government, not the person?” she asked.
Education Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rahman said the government had allocated 29 per cent of the provincial budget for education. He said 2.9 million out of 3.3 million children between 5 and 9 years of age had entered school by the end of the last academic year. Rahman said that the government had also recruited science subject teachers. He said during the PML-N government from 1997 to 1999, 2.5 per cent of the GDP was allocated for education but it came down later to around 1.8 per cent.
Major (retd) Abdul Rehman, a PPP member, said it was the government’s own “unnecessary” expenditures that were the only constraint on resources. He said the government should use Zakat funds to pay parents sending their children to school. Senator Dr Saeeda Iqbal, one of the writers of a bill to provide free and compulsory education in Islamabad (ICT), said the government could impose a tax on higher education to generate funds for school education. However, other participants opposed the “impractical” suggestion, arguing that higher education was already quite expensive.
No suitable alternative to Islamiat
National Commission for Justice and Peace National Secretary Peter Jacob said the bill for right to education in the ICT ignored the rights of minority children. He said NCJP result showed the “hate content” in the curriculum had increased in 2012 as compared to previous syllabi. He said there were no alternatives for subjects like Islamic Studies and Nazria-e-Quran for non-Muslim students, who were instead given the option of Ethics and Computer Studies.
Waqas Jafri, a JI member said minorities had been deprived of their rights due to social practices and without any legal provision.
Their One Million signatures campaign had achieved its target, said Baela Raza Jamil, the ITA programmes director. She said the campaign will continue until all the provinces bring laws to implement Article 25-A. “With elections coming up, it is the perfect time to influence policy makers to incorporate education as a priority in their party manifestos,” she said.
Two Youth Parliament of Pakistan members proposed a Primary Education Commission. School children read out various demands including the allocation of 4 per cent of GDP for education, a transparent teacher appointment mechanism, equal access to education and taking steps to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.