LAHORE: July 12 this year, termed as ‘Malala Day’ will not only mark the teenage peace activist's 16th birthday, but will be accompanied by events across the world supporting the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative.
The initiative calls for enrollment and learning of all children in schools, particularly girls by 2015.
As part of the global initiative, Plan International Pakistan will be supporting young girls who shall be conveying their demands for right to education to government representatives, shares Plan International Pakistan’s project coordinator Iftikhar Mubarak. The initiative in the country calls for all provincial and federal governments to enhance their working to achieve better enrollments and learning at schools.
In Lahore, almost 30 young school girls will be presenting a resolution to provincial minister for population welfare Punjab Zakia Shahnawaz on Friday, demanding that education be dealt with the highest priority. A six point agenda largely focusing on ensuring access and quality education, budget allocation and providing a productive environment for girls’ education will be read out in Urdu, Punjabi and Siraiki. Hailing from various schools and learning centres for children, including GODH, Bunyad, SOS and the Salvation Army, the young girls were also given orientation session regarding their right to education.
In collaboration with local organisations working in the area of child rights and education, similar resolutions are being shared with government representatives in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakthunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and the Islamabad Capital Territory. Mubarak says the activity aims to help governments stay on track of their commitment towards the Millennium Development Goals. "We all are aware of the issues that girls in the country are facing regarding education," he says, adding "these include enrollment, quality and access to education, besides other issues."
According to the Annual Status of Education Report 2012, which conducted a survey of 244, 477 children in the 3 to 16 age bracket in 136 districts of Pakistan, 23% of all school age children are out of school. Out of this 23%, the report points that 5% have dropped out while another 18% have never been enrolled in schools. For the 6 to 16 age bracket, the figures from this report indicate more girls are out of school than boys, validating Mubarak’s concerns. Girls constitute almost 13% of the 23% of children in the 6 to 16 age cohort who were out of school in 2012 - 2% more than the ASER 2011 figures.
Partnering with Plan International Pakistan, the Child Rights Movement – a group of 28 child rights and protection organisations- will be supporting the cause in Punjab. Focal person CRM Miqdad Naqvi believes for girls in Pakistan, Malala Day should serve as a reminder. Despite the Article 25-A making free education a right for all children in the 5 to 16 age bracket, Naqvi believes not much has been done to ensure its implementation. "The situation on ground reflects a lack of initiatives and work to ensure that children, particularly, girls be provided that right," he says.
For governments, he says, it is essential to have a political will coupled with necessary resource allocation to achieve the goals of greater enrollment and learning.
In the United Nations itself, Malala will be addressing almost 500 young students from 80 different countries at the UN’s Youth Assembly on Friday – where youth will make the demand for education for all – making this her first public speech after she was targeted by Taliban in October last year.