“If we pass law for providing free and compulsory secondary education, it will not be fruitful in the present scenario as the education department is short of financial and infrastructural resources,” Provincial Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Mohammad Atif Khan told Dawn on Sunday.
However, he said, that the provincial government would definitely pass the law as it was a constitutional requirement. He was not sure about the specific time for the passage of the law.
Article 25A of the Constitution, inserted through the 18th Amendment, says that state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years in such manner may be determined by law.
Besides the Sindh government, the law about providing free and compulsory education has already passed by the federal governments for schools in Islamabad while the rest of the provinces are yet to follow suit.
After passage of 18th Amendment, the elementary and secondary education department during the previous Awami National Party-led provincial government had presented a proposed bill in 2010 to the provincial cabinet regarding free and compulsory education for approval. However, the draft law couldn’t be tabled in the assembly for passage.
The then provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain had also told Dawn during the last days of the previous government that they couldn’t implement the law owing to financial constraints. “Only passage of law is not sufficient rather its important phase is implementation, which is not possible,” he had told Dawn.
Mr Hussain had said that it would be a violation of law if they couldn’t implement it after its passage from the provincial assembly.
Atif Khan said that elementary and secondary education department was already facing multiple problems owing to shortage of funds. He said that once the relevant law was passed then its implementation was obligatory. The implementation of the law would be difficult for the resources-starved Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he added.
Keeping in view the criteria of setting up a primary school within a radius of 1.5 kilometre or two kilometres area, there is need of 22,000 more schools, according to sources.
According to a rough estimate, additional funds of Rs138 billion were required to provide free and compulsory secondary education to children in the province, sources said.
The education department fulfilled its responsibility by drafting law for providing free and compulsory secondary education that was also referred to the cabinet in 2010 during the ANP government, they said.
The cabinet had also formed a committee, headed by additional chief secretary, regarding passage of the law and its implementation but the issue was pushed under the carpet till end of the tenure of the ANP government.
According to the proposed bill, parents are bound to enroll their children in the schools till the completion of secondary education.
However, the law is not applied to a child if he/she is incapable of attending school by reason of sickness, infirmity on mental incapacity or it is not desirable that the child should be compelled to carry on his education further on account of peculiar circumstance.
Also, a child, receiving instructions equivalent to education otherwise than in school, which in the opinion of the relevant authority are sufficient, is exempted from getting compulsory education.
Similarly, children of an area where there is no school within a radius of two kilometres from their residences, are also exempted, states the draft law.
Source: The Dawn