Human rights in textbooks: SHC seeks explanation of chief, education secretaries over non-compliance of its order

Bench wants an explanation by May 16

Our Correspondent April 13, 2018

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued on Thursday notices to the provincial chief secretary and the education and literacy department secretary seeking explanations as to why they may not be proceeded against for allegedly not complying with the court's directives to include the fundamental human rights in textbooks up to intermediate.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, sought such explanations by May 16.

The judges were hearing a public-interest case seeking inclusion of the fundamental human rights' chapter of the Constitution in the textbooks in order to promote peace and harmony in society.

The petition was filed by Advocate Zubair Ali Khaskheli, who had taken the federal and provincial education ministries, the provincial chief secretary and others to court in October 2011.

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His lawyer, Rafiq Ahmed Kalwar, had argued that the government should make efforts to bring harmony in society, which was the need of the time. For this purpose, human rights education should be made part of the school syllabus, as has been done in Nepal, he had proposed in the petition.

He had maintained that the federal and provincial governments must take steps for the promotion of harmony by introducing human rights education in the school curriculum. Therefore, the court was requested to direct the federal and provincial governments to include human rights' articles of the Constitution in school syllabi to benefit future generations.

During Thursday's proceedings, Advocate Kalwar reminded the judges that after rounds of proceedings, the court had on November 12, 2013 very clearly ordered the federal and provincial education authorities to include the human rights chapter in the textbooks.

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However, the provincial chief secretary and the provincial education and literacy department's secretary had failed to comply with the court's orders, which amounted to willfully and deliberately committing contempt of the court's order. Therefore, he pleaded to the court to proceed against the two secretaries for contempt of court's order.

The bench issued notices to the chief secretary and the education secretary to furnish their written explanations showing cause as to why they might not be proceeded against for not complying with the court's earlier orders.

Sindh government's assurance

Submitting his reply in February, 2016, Education Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho had informed the court that the chapters highlighting human rights, as mentioned in chapter one of the Constitution, had been incorporated in the new textbooks for classes one to seven. These chapters have been included in the general knowledge textbook for classes two and three, and in the social studies textbook for classes four and five. The additions in the textbooks for classes eight to Intermediate was under way, the secretary had told the court over two years ago.

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These concepts are organised in a very systematic manner by educationists and child psychologists while preparing the curriculum documents, Pechuho had said.

He had said that a copy of the subject-wise report has already been submitted in court. These concepts will be covered extensively in the new books, he had assured.

According to Pechuho, the education and literacy department is making efforts under the Sindh School Education Standards and Curriculum Act, 2014, to formulate schemes regarding curriculum development and implementation, including textbooks assessments, he had said.

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The government will ensure full compliance of the court's directives while devising future education policies and schemes highlighting human rights contained in the United Nations' charters, Geneva conventions and other conventions, the secretary had undertaken.


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