PESHAWAR, July 21: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has put its plan to provide free compulsory education up to the secondary level to children in the province on the back burner for lack of funding.

According to the relevant officials, the government needs a whopping Rs40 billion over the next four to five years to execute the plan.

Under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, are required to provide their children with free education up to secondary level.

Article 25-A incorporated into the Constitution through 18th Amendment reads: “the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law.”

In the post-18th Amendment regime, the provincial elementary and secondary education department drafted the ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Compulsory Secondary Education Bill, 2011’ and submitted it to the cabinet for approval. The cabinet discussed the bill and formed a committee to examine it.

However, the proposed bill was neither returned to the cabinet nor was it tabled to the assembly for consent.

An official said the required funds needed for free education in the province would be spent on construction of new schools.

He said there should be a primary school in the radius of 1.5 or two kilometres area and in this light, the province faced a shortage of 22,000 schools.

According to the bill a copy of which is available with Dawn, parents will be bound to send their children to schools until they complete secondary education. Those with ‘reasonable excuses’ will be an exception.

The ‘reasonable excuses’ say if a child is sick or mentally challenged, receives instructions equivalent to education at place other than school or has no school within two kilometres distance from his house, he/she will not be forced into attending school.

The bill suggests that the government implement the law through Parents Teachers Council at school level.

According to it, PTC will endeavour that every child attend a school under its jurisdiction and take such steps as it may consider necessary or as may be specified by government.

“The people whose children are not admitted to schools, PTC, after giving to the parents an opportunity of being heard and after such inquiries as it may consider necessary, may pass an order directing parents to admit their children to schools.

“Parents, who fail to comply with an order issued by PTC, on conviction before a magistrate, be punishable with fine that may extended to Rs1,000 and with further fine which may extend to Rs100 for every passing day after the conviction for which the failure continues or with imprisonment which may extend to one month or with both,” it says.

When contacted, E&SE minister Sardar Hussain Babak confirmed lack of funding for the plan. He said the government was constructing new schools and distributing free books among students.

The minister said at the start of the current academic year, an enrolment campaign was launched across the province to enroll out-of-school children. He added actually, serious efforts had been made by the government to fulfill its responsibility of providing all children in the province with compulsory education.

“We are striving to provide best education facilities to our people despite having limited resources,” he said.

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