It seems that even though the free and compulsory education law (Article 25-A) was passed more than a decade ago, government departments are assuming that this law cannot be implemented and therefore no effort is necessary. consistent about it. This concern was expressed by Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) during a panel discussion in Islamabad with members of the Standing Committees of the Senate and the National Assembly.
This parliamentary round table was organized by civil society organizations such as CPDI, Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA) and Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) in collaboration with the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS).
Ms Zehra Arshad, National Coordinator, PCE, while providing an Analysis of Article 25-A, SDG 4 and the Ehsaas program, shared:
“Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world. It is therefore not surprising that Pakistan ranks last on the Human Development Index among South Asian countries. To compound this crisis, it is feared that a million more children have dropped out of school. “
He stressed the importance of not only ensuring the rapid implementation of Article 25-A, but also aligning it with the SDGs to ensure at least 12 years of free and quality education for all.
PYCA Executive Director Areebah Shahid commented on progress towards SDG 4 targets and provided recommendations to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
“There is a pressing need to align Pakistan’s commitments under SDG 4 with actual spending on education. At the federal level this year, we allocated almost 90% of monetary resources for tertiary education and only 1.04% for school education. This huge disparity in funding priorities will only delay us in meeting our commitments to the SDGs. “
He also stressed the urgent need to introduce gender-responsive education budgets along the same lines as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to achieve the promise of equitable education.
Ms. Ghazala Saifi, member of the Standing Committee on Education and Parliamentary Secretary for National Heritage and Culture, offered further collaboration between the government and civil society organizations.
“The standing committee will hope to hold meetings in the presence of civil society stakeholders so that there is a sustainable platform for the exchange of information, ideas and experience.”
Senator Falak Naz Chitrali cited Chitral’s example to highlight the malice of child marriages.
“The suicide rate among young women in Chitral has increased in recent years and the main causes are child marriages or marriages in which the woman’s consent is not available.”
Speaking of the flaws in our educational system, MNA Nafeesa Inayatullah Khan Khattak noted that
“If we look back in history, most of the national heroes like Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan studied in very backward village schools. He was able to do so not only because of his passion but because of the provision of excellent teachers who believed in educating with passion and not with corporal punishment. Incompetent teachers are contributing to the high number of dropouts. To ensure student retention in schools, we need to bring in good teachers. “
In closing remarks, the main guest, Ms. Wajiha Akram, Parliamentary Secretary for Federal Education and Vocational Training, said
“The federal ministry is not only aware of the problems, but we are working very actively to overcome them despite having very limited resources at our disposal. We are currently in the process of updating the list of beneficiaries of the Ehsaas educational stipends program to ensure that children from families that fell below the poverty line after COVID can also immediately benefit from this national initiative. Improving girls’ access to education remains at the core of our current strategy and we will actively engage with civil society to ensure a two-way learning process that can make education possible for the most marginalized children in Pakistan. “