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PLEDGES MADE FOR ACCELERATING ACTIONS TO IMPLEMENT RIGHT TO EDUCATION (RTE) 25-A LEGISLATION IN SINDH TO MEET TARGETS OF SDGS 2030 & SDG 4

Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in collaboration with United Nations Democracy Funds (UNDEF) hosted a round table discussion on November 8, 2019 in Karachi with an aim to urge government officials to enforce education laws set forth in Article 25-A of the Pakistani Constitution.

There was overwhelming consensus by over 50 parliamentarians, government officials, teachers, academics, innovators and civil society at the round table on ‘Accelerating Actions to Implement Sindh Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education Act 2013’, that slow implementation of right to education or Article 25 A in Sindh, Pakistan will clearly impact achieving the SDGs 2030/SDG 4 on education, just like MDGs in 2015 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) commitments. There were calls to reverse this reality through a positive disruption needed urgently, by all stakeholders in the education sector.

The action packed round table was supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) Right to Education campaign backed by article 25A and the provincial act and rules. The focus of the meeting was on ‘governance’ and quality particularly highlighting Chapter V of the Sindh’s RTE on SMCs and Teachers together with Chapter VII committed to establishing the Education Advisory Council and Secretariat to track implementation. The meeting set the context by sharing highlights of key indicators on education in Sindh, followed by specific reading of the Act/Rules 2016.

ITA CEO Baela Raza Jamil urged that each one present at the Round Table was an important ‘influencer’ in their own right; be it the teacher in the classroom, the headteacher in the school to the Secretary in their Department, Education Foundations in their growing areas of operations through Public Private Partnerships, Innovators, Civil Society members in their sphere of operations and Academics in university and research. She urged that the time has come to respect voices of young children like Greta Thunberg in Sweden, and three teenage girls Michael Hyatt, Leila Alam and Laiba Siddiqui who have recently filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, demanding guarantee of their rights for clean air and education. “We need more children in Pakistan stepping up their claims and entitlements; let’s support such brave young activists,” she added.  

There were voices in the audiences which highlighted some excellent examples of positive actions through public private partnerships such as Aaron Awasen of Deaf Reach who shared that compared to the past when all ‘deaf’ children had to sit their matric and higher secondary exams in Karachi only, now this facility is available through combined efforts in Hyderabad, Nawabshah and Sukkur as well; the Sindh assembly has just passed a Bill allowing adults with hearing impairments to have driving licenses. Aaron underscored there is good news too on some fronts through public private partnerships.

Some adopters spoke about their significant wins in school improvement and training SMCs. A headteacher from rural Sindh spoke about how she was able to mobilize local community and not just take the enrolment from 250 to 2500 but is able to improve quality, resources for learning and technology through huge local efforts.

The Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) spoke about its work as a semi-autonomous department doing its best to ensure quality education for the 21st century across Sindh within the resources provided. Merit based IBA Head Teachers who are still not regularized spoke about their great leaps forward on their campuses for increasing enrolment, equity and quality with innovations, but felt demoralized by lack of action by Sindh Education and Literacy Department (SELD) for failing to finalize their contracts. The atmosphere in the hall was positively charged with energy, and honesty by almost all participants pleading lack of knowledge about 25-A law/rules in Sindh; however, they all committed to actions for a fundamental right.     

Over 20 pledges were made for accelerating implementation of the Sindh Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2013 and its Rules 2016, including developing a tracker with SELD and stakeholders for implementation of 25-A by Ms. Shajia Sarfaraz, a citizen activist and education consultant. Academics, trainers, headteachers, teachers, Assistant Director (Primary) schools Seema Zahid agreed to propagate widely the Sindh RTE Act & Rules; whilst Dr. Ghazala Rafique from AKU pledged support for awareness about the articles on Early Childhood Education to parents and teachers. A headteacher from Sukkur vowed to open a second shift for the most vulnerable out of school children.

Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly Syed Firdous Shamim Naqvi pledged to support the implementation of RTE through a bi-partisan approach to make a difference to the future of the children of Sindh and Pakistan, admitting that this sector has been given a stepchild treatment bordering on criminality by many key stakeholders, parliamentarians, government, teachers, even parents themselves.  He vowed to support amendments to the act as well as mobilizing parliamentarians at the Assembly for an awareness session about the 30 articles of the Act and Rules respectively and their obligation to oversee its implementation. 

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Mr. Farooq Sattar promised to make a pledge without making U-turns and after a long winded conversation, agreed to meet Sindh Chief Minister Mr. Murad Ali Shah regarding implementation of the Act and Rules for right to education in the province.

Azcorp’s representative Ms. Madiha Rehman pledged awareness through comics and Adeel Durwesh of Parhao Sabaq suggested an urgency of making education more relevant through enterprise skills for students. 

Dr. Kaiser Bengali, economist and expert pleaded that education is highly fragmented as a sector and clearly remains off targets; it cannot be cohesively addressed until it is well coordinated and decentralized to local levels backed by resources and authority for action.

He said, “Clearly no ‘politician’ loses an election because he/she fails on promises made for education – the sector remains hostage to a great betrayal by state and society alike.” He proceeded to give the example of Bangladesh where the Prime Minister set aside one day a week with her cabinet to make critical services for public a possibility; there are no similar trends in Pakistan. Whilst acknowledging the work of ITA, its ASER reports and leadership, he agreed to do everything possible including being a part of sit-ins and hunger strikes for the implementation of 25-A.

Ms.Alia Shahid, Secretary Women Development Department in Sindh promised and pleaded for actions to accelerate quality education for girls, that is the most critical pillar for women’s empowerment and gender based budgeting which is the only tangible way forward to gender justice.