In April 2010, Article 25A was inserted via the 18th Amendment in the Pakistani Constitution, making education a Fundamental Right. Which makes Pakistan, a state which has 52 million children between the ages of 5 and 16 who are guaranteed free education by the Constitution.
Yet up till now, the number of out of school children in the same age group is 25 million, making Pakistan the country with the second highest population of out of school children. The latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2015 revealed that almost half of the 10 year old students have only achieved the linguistic competence of a 6 year old in either their mother tongue or in Urdu, the national Language. The competency levels for English are abysmal. Only half of 10 year old could be tested to be competent in arithmetic expected of a seven year old. The other half, not even that! Again, according to ASER report, 42% of government primary schools in the rural areas don’t have electricity. 40% don’t have access to clean drinking water. 49% do not have functioning toilets.
Where is the implementation? The Question is why is Pakistan not taking its own constitution seriously – both the state and the citizens? If the citizens were aware of what a ‘fundamental right’ means there would have been 1000s of citizens’ initiated cases against the state for not being serious and violating its own position on a constitutional fundamental right. To date, the number of public interest litigation’s is only a handful. After the incorporation of the right to education as a fundamental right under Article 25A of the Constitution, there was a period of dormancy during which no primary legislation was introduced to deliver the newly created fundamental right. However, after a series of constitutional petitions of the judicial review made in the public interest before the High Courts of the country, most governments introduced legislation through Ordinances, and later through Acts. At the time of writing, the Islamabad Capital Territory and the provinces of Baluchistan, Punjab and Sindh had legislation providing for the right to education but rules to complete the legislation were ﬁnalized for Sindh Only. For rest of them, rules need to be formulated. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government publicly committed to introducing a right to education bill in the Provincial Assembly at that time. The government of KPK passed the bill for right to education, last week, which has gaps and it is passed with the condition of implementation, in speciﬁc areas, through notiﬁcation by the education department, which reﬂects that certain areas of the province will be excluded Again. While fundamental rights are not justifiable by the Pakistani constitutional courts in the context of FATA, and the citizens of GilgitBaltistan have recourse to their own courts, and laws passed by the national and Provincial Assemblies do not automatically apply to these areas, the same rights of education should, nevertheless, also be extended to these areas in recognition of their status as citizens of Pakistan in accordance with the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Al-Jehad Trust case.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir is not discussed here as it does not constitute a part of Pakistan constitutionally and its citizens are not citizens of Pakistan under the law. It has been 7 years since “Right to Education” was included in the legislation, yet, it is not clear 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 weak monitoring mechanisms. There are six critical factors, involved in successful implementation of the right to education: political will, ﬁnancial commitment, the central role of the public sector, equity in public ﬁnance, reducing the cost of education to households and the integration of education into wider human development goals. none of these six critical elements is visible in any integrated way in our education policy. And the possibility of coherently aligning them in order to implement the right to education seems slim despite some signs of stimulated political will in many initiatives. Yet getting the other ﬁve key factors in place will remain an arduous task thanks to the low ﬁnancial allocation for education and the deteriorating role of the public sector leading to the mushrooming of private schools.
The writer is the Executive Member of Youth General Assembly and Manager of Idara-eTaleem-o-Aagahi.