The finalisation of a bill by the Elementary and Secondary Education Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regarding the provision of free and compulsory education at the primary and secondary levels to all children of the age five to 16 years is a positive development given the pathetic literacy statistics generally in Pakistan and particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As per contents of the drafted bill, it would be made mandatory for the parents in the province to send their children to schools. Parents who fail to send their children to school without any reasonable excuse defined in the law will be liable for imprisonment and fine. In this regard, the government will constitute a School Attendance Authority for each school to keep a check.
Prior to the formation of the bill, the FATA Assessment Report 2015-16 had presented a dismal picture of the overall education sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Despite tall claims of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to promote quality education in Fata, schools lack even basic facilities. Main reasons for poor state of affairs at these schools are stated to be corruption, lack of finances as well as a surge in militancy in these restive tribal areas. The education sector is one of those areas that have faced government’s neglect for the last seven decades. According to the latest estimate, Pakistan’s literacy rate is 59.98 percent that is the lowest amongst the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries except Afghanistan. The net enrollment rate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the primary level is 54 percent. The literacy rate is 72 percent for males and 36 percent for females. There is a need to launch a countrywide literacy movement to ensure enrollment of every child in school. It is imperative to set up an educational system that could be compatible with the requirements of a knowledge-based economy. Education is not merely a matter of priority for Pakistan; it is also the future of the country that lies in educational and professional development of its educated youth. Illiteracy is one of the reasons that Pakistan is riddled with the scourge of terrorism and other social ills. There is no escape from admitting the reality that Pakistan’s poor spending on education has contributed to raising a society tending toward illiteracy and intolerance and which has, because of decades of neglect, embraced militancy and extremist ideologies.
There is a need to launch a countrywide movement particularly in militancy-prone areas to save the future of hundreds of students who are striving to get education under difficult conditions. In a country like ours where education and the average literacy rate is in an abysmal state, to see us moving forward into the future with no clue as to how to educate the next generation is a tragedy indeed. Pakistan needs to reverse its lacklustre attitude towards educating its future generations while ensuring the availability of all basic needs and infrastructure at their schools. Pakistan of tomorrow must be an educated one, and there are no two questions about it.
Reporter. Compulsory education bill. Daily Times, January 31, 2017.