By Sadaf Taimur, Asst. Manager Communications and Partnerships, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA)
With: 23 million children out of school; almost half of the 10 year old students having achieved the linguistic competence of a 6 year old (in either their mother tongue or in Urdu); 50% of grade 5 lacking competency of grades 2 (Maths, Urdu/Pashto/Sindhi and English); 42% of government primary schools in the rural areas without electricity; 40% lacking access to clean drinking water and 49% lacking functioning toilets, we can clearly reveal that education is NOT a priority across Pakistan. The importance of education for any society is so obvious that it hardly needs any explanation but unfortunately, Pakistan has failed to achieve the desired literacy level, let alone education for our masses, even after 70 years of independence and 7 years of insertion of Right to Education Act (25-A) in the legisla-tion.
On April 19th 2010, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan guaranteed Free and Compulsory education for all 5-16 year olds as a Fundamental Right via Article 25 A. This was a historical landmark and seven years down the road where do we stand. We acknowledge legislation of the four provinces and Islamabad Capital territory for 25 A but the implementation has yet to begin; only Sindh has completed rules, which is a precondition towards implementation. KP has recently passed the Act but with the condition of implementation, only in specific areas, through notification by education department! So will certain areas of the province be excluded AGAIN? Will the law be an exception and not the rule for this fundamental right? Is that acceptable and how many more years will it take for implementation to begin in Pakistan? Denial of a fundamental right to education compromises the life of a child that affects her/his adulthood and life chances. This violation is intergenerational and is not acceptable for any child.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan on March 28, 2014, in Islamabad, had vowed in front of national and global leaders doubling the education budget to 4% of GDP in 2018. On April 20, 2017 the budget allocation hovers around 2.5% up from 2 % but the actual expenditures will once again fall behind allocations. Sadly, Pakistan was also off track on MDGs, but now it stands firmly committed to the 17 SDGs to be achieved by 2030. SDG 4 is a focus on comprehensive education from Early Childhood to lifelong learning ensuring the principles of inclusion and equity. SDG 4 in its scope of 7 targets and 3 means of implementation encompasses the age group 5-16 as per 25 A and also pre-school, post-secondary, tertiary and technical education as lifelong learning. Vision 2025, Education Sector Plans from each province – and their alignment to SDGs and 25 A may be order of the day but the imple-mentation and intentions remain off track as does the utilization of the budgets in each province. Each day we hear of violations of 25 A in letter and spirit, children being harassed and abused in schools, denied transition from primary to middle to secondary due to simple lack of facilities, learning under sub-optimal conditions.
On 7th anniversary of Article 25-A, where do we stand in terms of IMPLEMENTATION? It has to be clarified that how the “right to education” will be fully realised in line with the requirements laid down in international covenants and human rights instruments in the absence of appropriate budgetary allocations & weak monitoring mechanisms. However, high performance spending remains severely short for expanding post primary school facilities, investing into quality learning, ensuring that the most disadvantaged and excluded groups are brought into the education / learning net, supporting science, language and maths in terms of facilities, teachers and enabling teaching learning; accountability for teachers’ presence and performance etc. Whilst missing facilities, smart classrooms and technology driven secondary schools, modest girls stipends may be showcased here and there, the fact of the matter is 22.5 million children are still out of schools! These children are being denied their fundamental right across Pakistan.
The Question is why is Pakistan not taking its own constitution seriously – why are the citizens not agitating? There should have been 1000s of citizens’ initiated public interest litigations (PILs) against the state for violating a constitutional right. To date, the number of PILs are only a handful. Civil society led by ITA, mobilized over 3 million signatures to push for 25 A legislation from 2012-2014 but clearly, implementation requires much more than this. Our work remains unfinished within the territories without coverage of 25 A, viz. Gilgit Baltistan and FATA. The provincial governments backed by the political parties and leaders are drumming the right sounds – pushing the education budgets to 20% and above, prior to the General Elections next year.
At the World Bank and the IMF’s annual spring meetings in Washington, DC (April 21 -23), delegates reinforced the case for international cooperation. In particular, they discussed the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd), a bold plan to ensure that, for the first time in history, all of the world’s 1.6 billion boys and girls – including refugees and displaced children in low- and middle-income countries – are in school and learning. The IFFEd, for its part, will facilitate annual investments in education to the tune of nearly $10 billion. With these resources, we can make significant progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for education, which aims to make primary and secondary education available for all children by 2030. After the IMF -World Bank Spring Meetings 2017 and the launch of the International Financing Facility for Education (IFFEd) by the Education Commission, we ask our Pakistani leaders to remember promises made first and foremost for commitment matched by domestic financing. The Education Commission Chaired by Gordon Brown with a civil society Commissioner, Baela Raza Jamil, from Pakistan has clearly argued that a learning generation is possible within a generation if the low- and middle-income countries would agree to increase domestic public expenditure on education from an average of about 4% of GDP today to 5.8% of GDP by 2030. The Commission is pushing simultaneously for the international community to increase its financing over this period, from about $16 billion per year to some $90 billion where the education’s share of ODA must be enhanced to 15% and topped by IFFEd. The IFFEd will bring together bilateral donors, the World Bank, and regional development banks in a coordinated manner, enabling them to pool their resources and leverage idle capital where appropriate. This is a big and bold step to ensure that the next generation is not lost, but learning.
WE NEED TO ADDRESS EDUCATION “AS A PRIORITY” with IMPLEMENTATION MILESTONES that can be tracked at local, national and international levels for making RTE –or 25 A not merely a string of words and handful of laws but entitlements backed by finances and evidence on children’s equity and inclusion. Pakistan’s children cannot wait – the Pakistani political and bureaucratic leadership must take action now!
Blog originally posted on the Right to Education Pakistan Blog page.