While the Punjab government is yet to make public a draft law for the implementation of Article 25-A of the Constitution, or present it before parliamentarians, the opposition PML-Q submitted its own draft bill to the assembly secretariat here on Monday.
The Education Commission of the Punjab, a 20-member committee set up by the Punjab government, submitted its draft bill on November 21, but the authorities have ignored calls from civil society organisations to make the draft public for further discussion. It has also yet to be presented in the assembly.
Chaudhry Zaheeruddin of the PML-Q told reporters that since the Punjab government had “failed in its responsibilities,” the opposition had decided to step up.
PML-Q media coordinator Chaudhry Iqbal said that the draft bill had been submitted at the Punjab Assembly Secretariat on Monday.
Noorullah, another official at the PML-Q media cell, said that it had been two years since Article 25-A was added to the Constitution, making education free and compulsory for children aged five to 16.
The PML-Q’s draft bill states that free and compulsory education should be provided to children aged 5 to 16 irrespective of their sex, nationality, race or religion. It says those aged above 16 must not be forced to drop out of school if they have not completed their education.
The draft stresses the availability of neighbourhood schools and a safe learning environment. It lays the financial responsibility for education on the provincial government, but also provides for it to seek assistance from the federal government.
The draft proposes repealing the Punjab Compulsory Primary Education Act 1994, as has been proposed by the Education Commission of the Punjab in its draft bill. The draft bill specifies the duties of parents and local authorities, while also prescribing penalties for parents and employers who fail to ensure that children attend school.
Pressure on the government
Ahmad Ali, a research fellow at the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences, said that the opposition’s move would put more pressure on the government to present the commission’s draft in the assembly. He said both drafts should be referred to the assembly’s standing committee on education for deliberation. “The committee should take experts in the field of education on board in gauging the merits of both drafts,” he said.
Baela Raza Jamil, the programmes director at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi, expressed concern that the opposition and the government would turn any debate on the draft bills into a “game of political parties”.
Jamil questioned why the government had still not made its draft law public for debate. She said she had written to the chief minister and met with the schools education secretary to press them to do so.
She said the situation was similar in the other provinces. “There is a lack of seriousness regarding education on all sides,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2012.
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