The government on Wednesday launched its Emergency Enrolment Campaign to combat illiteracy in the province. It will target 3.5 million four-to-16 years-old out-of-school children (OOSC).
The campaign was officially launched by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The government says this is one of many initiatives taken to address the “education emergency” in the country. The campaign’s tag line is Freedom from Illiteracy (jahalat say azaadi).
The Independence Day was selected for the launch on account of its symbolic value, Schools Additional Secretary Ahsan Bhutta told The Express Tribune. The campaign launch was a part of the Independence Day festivities.
The chief minister inaugurated the enrolment campaign after the flag hoisting ceremony at the Aiwan-i-Iqbal on Wednesday by signing enrolment forms of some of the new students.
The campaign aims to achieve 100 per cent enrolment of children of school going age in the province. Action plans were issued to all district coordination officers and executive district officers. The campaign was divided into two parts- a survey of OOSC and enrolment of the OOSC identified. Government school teachers were employed for both phases.
The School Education Department says 3.5 million children aged four to 16 years have been identified. Out of those, almost two million children are aged four to 9 years. Bhutta said the second phase, which commenced from Wednesday, will focus on the enrolment of OOSC till end of October. “Our primary focus, however, is on retention,” he explained, “But first we need to enrol the children.”
The government has mobilised several departments for the campaign. The SED will head the campaign. Literacy and Non Formal Basic Education, Higher Education, Special Education, Auqaf and Social Welfare Departments are also part of the campaign, Bhutta said.
The enrolment drive will be monitored by a steering committee chaired by Education Minister Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan. A statement issued by the minister on Tuesday said 2.8 million children were enrolled in schools each year. The enrolment campaign targeting four to nine year olds will continue for two more years, it said. Khan has also issued orders for the formation of vigilance committees to monitor the retention of the enrolled children. Strict action will be taken against schools and teachers who fail to retain their students, the notification reads.
Teachers vs SED
However, an ongoing rift between the SED and government school teachers may impede the campaign’s progress. As many as 30,000 teachers in the province have been deployed as part of the campaign. 1,000 teachers have been assigned responsibilities in Lahore alone.
Last month, teachers protested the show cause notices issued to them for ‘failing to produce good results’.
Punjab Teachers’ Union General Secretary Rana Liaquat Ali told The Express Tribune that they would carry on with the campaign despite reservations. “Teachers were told to attend the campaign’s inauguration,” he said, “Even though they had refused to attend rehearsals for the event.” The school heads were told to ensure attendance of all teachers at the inauguration, otherwise action would be taken against them, Ali said.
“The teachers are not happy…we are being issued notices, fined and even sacked,” he said, “Still we have to carry out the campaign.”
Ali said that negotiations between the PTU and the government had been scheduled for August 15. A provincial meeting of the PTU has been scheduled for August 25.
The second phase of the enrolment drive will continue till October 21.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2013.