Education is the most important key for the development of a nation

Laila Shahnawaz

All of us understand and realize the fact that education plays an important role to make a nation, a state successful. Pakistan has also signed international instruments including Convention on Child Rights (CRC) and being a developing country has done some legislation on free and compulsory education for children in. The article 25 A of the constitution deals with right to education and says the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 5 to 16.

The federal government had passed the article in 2012.

The provinces have also passed it from their respective assemblies while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was the last, among provinces, to enact the law in 2017 six years after the insertion of Article 25-A and rules of business are not yet notified even the government tenure has come to an end and the new tenure has been started after elections 2018 and without rules of business it is not possible to implement free and compulsory education law.

There is lack of implementation of this law. Under this Act, the government is responsible for providing free education to the students and parents will have to send their children to school.

While parents would be punishable with imprisonment up to one month or fine which may extend up to Rs100 per day or with both for not sending their children to schools, but we see this law has not been implemented yet.

As children of the same ages can be seen not going to schools, while there is not a single report of taking action against parents in this connection.

According to a 2015 report of AlifAilaan (non-profit organization) the proportion of out of school children increases as the level of education rises as much as that by the higher secondary level almost 85% are not in school.

In recent years, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has experienced unprecedented growth in the public sector’s budgetary allocations for education. And according to data from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Elementary and Secondary Education Department, in 2012-13 the budget allocated for education in the province was Rs 63.69 billion. This budget was increased to Rs84.63 billion in 2013-14 by the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

In 2014-15, this was raised by another 20 per cent to Rs93.611 billion. Similarly, in 2015-16 the education budget raised to Rs104.252 billion, and then to Rs118.7 billion in 2016-17. Having consistently allocated large portions of its budget for education over the past five years, the overall allocation for education by the government has more than doubled during this time.

However, it is very unfortunate that the latest official data sources reveal a static picture of primary and secondary education in the province.

Preliminary results of a recent extensive household survey conducted in all 25 districts of KP discloses that approximately 1.8 million children of 5-16 years of age are currently out of school, and according to the Economic Survey of 2016-17, the literacy rate is 53 per cent since 2012, meaning that 47 per cent of adults in the province remain illiterate. 31 percent children do not attend school due to lack of interest, 17 percent due to unavailability of schools and 28 percent because of poverty.

The reason behind the lack of interest is that people in the province do not see long term benefits of education or do not hold confidence in the ability of schools to provide quality education.

There are persistent crises of out-of-school children and high levels of student attrition beyond primary schools due to lack of schools and facilities.

The province also faces wide intra-provincial disparities, especially in primary school infrastructure, whereas some of the districts need special attention.

Low literacy rate is not the only issue; another biggest challenge of the KP is child labor. Child labor, in various forms, is found in every nook and corner of the country.

The Global Index Survey 2013 listed Pakistan as the third country, after Mauritania and Haiti, where child labor prevails whereas some 1.5 million children are currently involved in child labor in KP.

This is just the estimated figures, because the last survey conducted on child labor in the country was in 1996 by the Federal Bureau of Statistics.

There is need to conduct another child labor survey in Pakistan to know the actual situation. After the survey no concrete steps were taken. According to KP Social welfare department that various laws have been enacted in this regard but it is hard enough to see any such law which has been fully implemented.

The government under KP Child Protection and Welfare Commission (KPCPWC) established child protection units with the support of UNICEF but last year these units were closed due to non availability of funds.

After the 18th Amendment, all matters relating to child labor have been devolved to the provinces.

The KP has enacted legislation on child labor by passing the KP Prohibition of Employment of Children Act 2016, but unfortunately it has yet to make rules for it and that is the main hurdle in the implementation of this law.

Lack of education, poverty, displacement, unemployment, terrorism, militancy, disasters, lack of legislation and implementation, Gender based violence, increase in psychological problems, use of alcohol, early child marriages and abuses, rigid cultural norms, religious extremism,  notion of masculinity, human & women rights violation, security situation are some of the issues in KP that needs special attention of the government and law makers.

Education can play a vital role in preventing and eliminating GBV. Including gender into our curriculum, developing educational contents, developing policies and practices that promote gender equality, respect and tolerance is necessary so that students learn how to refrain or protect themselves and others from GBV.

Students need to acquire relevant knowledge, skill and behavior to prevent and address GBV so that gender equality is promoted.

We need awareness programs, decrease in gap between the communities and leadership, gender budget allocation, capacity building programs, monitoring and accountability systems, creation and implementation of laws, improved coordination among stakeholders, safe environment, research work, authentic data, true leadership & political will  to secure the future of our children.

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