Education: A din falling on deaf ears

Published Mar 25, 2013 03:38pm

BLC students. -Photo by author.
BLC students. -Photo by author.

While going about day to day activities, there is nothing to suggest that education for everyone aged 5-16 years is defined in the Constitution as a fundamental right. From the children who clean windscreens to the toddlers playing on the pavement and those who pass by unflinching; we, as a society, exude apathy when it comes to the education of our future generations, among other things.

The exact wording in article 25A of the Constitution is:

“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.”

According to a report by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency on the enforcement of article 25A, further support is needed to develop it.

Further legislation is needed to define and elaborate different modalities and rules for provision of free and compulsory education, as spelled out in last part of Article 25-A “in such a manner as may be determined by law.” This law has yet to be framed and approved by the Assemblies.

The National Assembly passed the ‘right to free and compulsory education bill’ last year while the Sindh government recently took a big step forward by passing the free education bill and thus far, remains the only province to have done so.

However, it must be asked why it took so long for the framework to be defined for what is described as a basic right? And why there is no action from the other provinces?

Moreover, when our politicians can go through the trouble of passing the law, why is there no regulation which ensures the implementation of said laws?

I have spent several evenings with children at the Blackboard Learning Centre (BLC), which is a free-for-all, after-school centre for children going to government schools, ranging from kids in kindergarten to students studying in grade six.

BLC students. -Photo by author.
BLC students. -Photo by author.

The centre is a place where children’s understanding of what they learn in school is reinforced to help them improve their concepts, with the ultimate aim of equipping them to be transferred to better schools. It is also open for students who are not enrolled in school and the two groups follow separate plans.

The initiative, started by Abu Turab Zaidi, operates with the help of volunteers and donations.

“BLC was established to supplement the education already being imparted to children in whichever schools their parents can send them to,” Zaidi said.

Citizens like Zaidi, who are privileged enough to be helping the less fortunate, are stepping up where the government fails its people. While it is a commendable effort, it must be asked why there is even a need for such initiatives? Why is the government not waking up to the problem of the deteriorating standard of education?

During one of the classes, I asked the teacher at BLC (who also teaches at a government school) why the children in senior classes had the same understanding of basic concepts as the children in the junior classes.

The teacher’s reply, which was shocking as well as saddening, made the case for BLC’s efforts to transfer children out of government school and to better schools, stronger.

She explained that the children are promoted to senior classes even if they fail because the teachers have to maintain a certain pass/fail ratio. If this ratio is not maintained, the teachers are questioned and in some cases, replaced. So, in order to save themselves and their jobs, the teachers promote students even if they are not competent enough.

This cycle leads to entire generations of people who reach the intermediate level and can barely spell their names in English, a subject which is part of their curriculum since pre-school.

BLC students. -Photo by author.
BLC students. -Photo by author.

How much of a difference are initiatives such as BLC going to make when everything about the system reeks of insincerity? The children are eager to learn and are being sent to schools but who is responsible for what is happening inside the classrooms?

Even if education is proritised by parents belonging to the lower class, their resolve is shot down by the substandard education on offer which does not equip their children with skill or knowledge. They see a better alternative in using their children for labour, which contributes to another problem of society.

Our people want better futures, but who is listening?

 


The writer is a Sports Producer at Dawn.com


Do you have information you wish to share with Dawn.com? You can email our News Desk to share news tips, reports and general feedback. You can also email the Blog Desk if you have an opinion or narrative to share, or reach out to the Special Projects Desk to send us your Photos, or Videos.

More From This Author

Getting a kick out of it

In a way, women’s club football is thriving in Pakistan like never before; more clubs are being registered regularly, but there is a lack of infrastructure.

Comments (19) (Closed)


RPN
Mar 25, 2013 10:56am
The situation is really pathetic in our country. The poor are traped in a vicious cycle of poverty where their children are not provided with the required skills and knowledge for the modern time market, leading them to joblessness and hence again poor. There are countless reasons for it and one cannot figure it out as where to start from. However proper monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to ensure accountablity can have a good effect.
Farooq Ali
Mar 25, 2013 12:26pm
There are some surprises for example the illetrate boys in my locality cannot write their name but can send an sms on mobile and can even operate a computer can also understand a complicated electric circuit why our intellactuals never researched that we are delivering education as a bitter pill difficult to swallow.
Agha Ata (USA)
Mar 25, 2013 12:57pm
One more thing: Are there police who would stop and question a young boy or a girl on the street during school hours that why she or he wasn't in school this time? Or would they also send a summon to parents to come to the court and explain the absence of their child from school? That is how it is done in the countries, where education is really compulsory.
Cyrus Howell
Mar 25, 2013 02:26pm
"The centre is a place where children
Cyrus Howell
Mar 25, 2013 02:31pm
The education of Huckleberry Finn.
Cyrus Howell
Mar 25, 2013 02:32pm
Boys will be boys.
Cyrus Howell
Mar 25, 2013 02:36pm
Leading them to joblessness and militancy. re: Thief of Baghdad.
DM
Mar 25, 2013 07:02pm
the education system needs an overhaul otherwise there is not point of learning centres or ngos...only 2 percent of children get a useful education in this country while the rest are suffering through no fault of their own
DM
Mar 25, 2013 07:03pm
thr problem is - the police went through the same system of schooling. they think it is ok for chidlren to bunk which is why they dont sya anything
Colin Wrigley
Mar 26, 2013 03:18am
Lazy journalism. The Sindh Assembly did indeed pass a bill for compulsory education up to 16 but it was so full of holes that the governor did not sign it into law. So Sindh is still in the same position as all the other provinces.
Farooq Ali
Mar 26, 2013 04:50am
Not possible here you mean another lollipop for police
MB
Mar 26, 2013 07:56am
It doesn't say law just bill...which the other province has not passed so it has to be appreciated. The truth is the whol system has to be redone and matched with the standard of global education
life is precious
Mar 26, 2013 11:53am
I agree with you . The only people who understand the objectives of teaching can set the goals and decide if the learning process is going in the right direction or not. 99% People ( teachers esp. in slum areas ) who are not properly trained and competent in their subject area either, should not be allowed to even enter the classroom. I know how corrupt the education department is because of political appointments and influence of people in power . these self taught kids are genius and schools should be running after after school programs to groom their talent . If the people in power send their kids abroad for education who is going to be concerned how the kids in Pakistan are educated. long gone are days when people used to get educated in govt. schools and care about their schools
Khanm
Mar 26, 2013 12:51pm
indeed they pass the bill. they passed it around to every mambers but it was the dollar bills.
Agha Ata (USA)
Mar 26, 2013 01:46pm
A friend of mine went to a school in a small place in Karachi to report that a particular kid was playing hookie. Take a guess, what he found. :) That day, the teacher was playing hookie, too.
Amjad
Mar 26, 2013 06:16pm
government's apathy to education is very disgusting. education is key instrument to social.economic and political.change in society. a miserly allocated budget is a injustice with people
aabdul
Mar 27, 2013 06:29am
Many of these schools have no teachers. In some schools, teachers take money but don't show up. And other remaining schools are destroyed by Taliban. I guess the future looks really bright for extremist Maddrassahs funded by pious and peaceful Muslims from all over the world. I know some overseas Pakistanis who went back to Pakistan to run Madrassahs and make plenty of money. Strange world.
aabdul
Mar 27, 2013 06:31am
On the other hand, Pakistani male policemen question girls as to why they are at school?
aabdul
Mar 27, 2013 06:32am
How is that possible when almost everyone starts jumping up and down and cry about jihad in Kashmir and Palestine?