KARACHI, Feb 13: Sindh took lead among all the provinces when its assembly unanimously passed the government bill ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education’ on Wednesday in compliance with Article 25A of the 1973 constitution.
Article 25A (right to education) reads: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
Piloting the bill, Senior Education Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq termed the day historic and said the law would give a much-needed boost to efforts for attaining the target of 100 per cent literacy rate by 2015, a target of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
The biggest challenge in this regard was its implementation in letter and spirit, the minister added.
According to the bill, any parent who fails to ensure that his child attended school may be fined up to Rs5,000 or with imprisonment up to three months.
The law makes it mandatory for private schools to admit 10 per cent underprivileged students on merit to provide them free education.
It says no school can function without registration.
Every school shall constitute a nine-member management committee with equal representation from the government, teachers, parents of students and management of the schools to monitor working of the schools and funds utilisation.
No teacher can be appointed without prescribed qualifications and the prescribed pupil-teacher ratio must be maintained at each school, according to the bill.
The minister praised leaders of all parliamentary parties in the house for turning the vision of the slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto into reality by unanimously adopting the bill. He expressed his gratitude to civil society and educationists, particularly Prof Abdul Wahab, Prof Mazhar Siddiqui, Prof Anwar Ahmedzai, Dr S.M. Qureshi, Capt Usman Ali Essani and Sadiqua Salahuddin, for their input.
Pir Mazhar said the government had initiated various measures to improve standard of education in public institutions. He suggested that lawmakers visit schools in their constituencies to ensure implementation of the law.
He recalled that his grandfather, Pir Elahi Bux, had the honour of making primary education in Sindh free and compulsory.
Before the adoption of the bill, 23 lawmakers across the house who got opportunity to express themselves highlighted the importance of education, terming it a milestone. They said it would play an important role in shaping the future of our nation bringing it on a par with developed nations.
Lawmaker Anwar Mahar said that instead of looking towards private schools for quality education, the government ought to pay attention to improve the falling standard of public sector institutions where billions of rupees were being spent and ensure that teachers deliver what they were being paid for.
After all, he added, until yesteryears the very ‘yellow’ (government) schools used to produce people of high calibre such as Shamsul Ulema Dr Dawoodpota.
Legislator Syed Sardar Ahmad said: “We are late by three years as Article 25A was included in the 1973 constitution three years back.”Arif Jatoi said why people had no confidence in public sector educational institutions on which billons of rupees were spent every year.
Amir Nawab said despite scarcity of resources the bill was a right step in the right direction, because no nation could make progress without education.
Marvi Rashdi suggested to the house that like western countries immunisation card of a child be made prerequisite for admission to schools.
Khalid Ahmad said that incentives such as a cycle and a sewing machine be given to boys and girls, respectively, who complete school education.
Shama Mithani suggested to the chair that after matriculation the students deprived of resources be provided scholarships and stipends to continue their education.
Sassui Palejo said that the bill was outstanding among all legislation by the assembly which if implemented would take the nation forward.
Haji Munawwar Ali Abbasi, Kulsoom Chandio, Syed Bachal Shah, Rauf Siddiqui, Ferzana Baloch, Shamim Ara and Rashida Panhwar, Nargis N.D. Khan, Jam Mehtab Dhar, Muzamil Qureshi, Rana Abdul Sattar, Razzaque Rahimoon, Humera Alwani, Ferheen Moghul and Taimour Talpur also congratulated the education minister for presenting the bill.
The bill (No 7 of 2013) providing for free and compulsory education to children was unanimously adopted after a third reading. Earlier on a motion of the law minister, a bill (No 4 of 2013) on the same subject was withdrawn.
By another motion, with the permission of the house, the law minister presented a report of the standing committee on health on government bill (No 1 of 2013) — The Sindh protection of breast-feeding and child nutrition — and deferred its consideration. Similarly, the introduction and consideration of the bills (No 6 and 10) — The Hyderabad Institute of Arts, Science, and Technology and The Sindh Arms Bill, 2013 — respectively were deferred on a motion of the law minister who was also allowed to defer the consideration of The Education City Bill.