Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, put his finger on it when he said that the government should “adopt concrete measures to actually get children into school instead of just promising them education”. There in a nutshell is the essence of the problem of getting the children of Pakistan educated — political promises have not been turned into educational realities for millions of our children, and one is forced to conclude that no government has ever been entirely serious about universal education in Pakistan. There are currently seven million children out of school who should be in it, the second-highest figure in the world and a position that has remained unaltered for, at least, a decade. It is now revealed that there is a fundamental impediment to expanding the education footprint — Pakistan has yet to determine the financial requirements to fulfil national and international commitments to Education for All (EFA). The Ministry of Education has admitted that there has been no study as to how much it will cost to meet the 2015 EFA target of 80 per cent of school-age children being educated.
A new clause guaranteeing the right to an education for everybody was inserted into the Constitution in 2010. Article 25-A says that the state shall provide compulsory and free education to every child between the ages of five and 16. The National Education Policy that was approved in 2009 is on the back burner after the devolution of education budgets to the provinces, only two of which had adopted Article 25-A. As with the devolution of health budgets, education has not fared well from the Eighteenth Amendment. Commitments made at the federal level regarding education run into the sand at the provincial level. As things stand, the entire primary education sector is effectively marching backwards. The international community has pledged $1 billion for education development over the next four years. We hope this money can be put to good use.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2014.
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