LAHORE: The Punjab government has finally accepted its responsibility of giving right to education to all children between 5-16 years of age in the province by promulgating The Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Ordinance 2014.
Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar promulgated on Tuesday evening the ordinance to make necessary provisions for the implementation of Article 25-A, which was inserted in the Constitution in 2010 binding the state to provide free and compulsory education to children aged 5-16 years. Since 2010, the Punjab government was supposed to legislate and provide free and compulsory education to children.
The governor has now promulgated the ordinance as Punjab Assembly is not in session and he was satisfied with the existing circumstances making it necessary to take action.
The ordinance has repealed the Punjab Compulsory Primary Education Act 1994, and declared that all such laws be brought into conformity with the scheme and objectives of this ordinance within five years.
According to a copy of the ordinance obtained by Dawn, every child has a right to free and compulsory education from Class-I to X, non-formal education, vocational education or a combination of all considering the needs, capability and age so as to ensure completion of education.
It states that a child or parent shall not be liable to pay any fee or charges or expenses for completing education in a school owned or controlled by the government or local authority.
The ordinance seeks creating local authorities (local government or an autonomous or a statutory government body exercising administrative control over a school) to establish requisite number of schools. It will also devise a scheme for using the schools in evening hours. The ordinance states the government and local authority shall devise a system of grants-in-aid to encourage admissions and support attendance of a disadvantaged child.
The ordinance also binds parents to get their children admitted to schools and help them attend, except in the case of a reasonable cause, until the said children would complete education.
If a parent failed to admit and keep the child in a school, according to the ordinance he/she would not be entitled to any subsidy or poverty-targeted support of the provincial as well as federal government.
The ordinance has made it binding on private schools, which are not receiving any kind of aid from the provincial or federal governments or a local authority, as well as government-recognised seminaries or schools offering religious education, to admit 10pc students of the strength of each of Class-I to X, including disadvantaged children of the neighbourhood or other children determined by the government, to offer them free and compulsory education.
Similarly, according to the ordinance, the private schools receiving aid or grant to meet whole or part of its expenses from the provincial or federal governments or a local authority will be required to provide free education to such proportion of children admitted therein as its annual aid or grant so received bears to its annual recurring expenses.
The private institutions will be required to provide information pertaining to students admitted to the government and local authority.
The ordinance has also made it binding on the government or local authority to establish a kindergarten school or childcare centre in a local area or consolidate or merge such schools or centres for providing free pre-school education and early childhood care for children above the age of three years until they join a school.
The government or the local authority shall establish a school management body and assign it powers regarding a school.
The government may permit a school management body to establish Faroogh-i-Taleem Fund for the school. All contributions from philanthropists, alumni, students and parents shall be credited to the fund and maintained at a scheduled bank. The fund shall be utilised for the welfare of students.
The ordinance requires that no school will deny any child admission for lack of proof of age. No school will expel a child until arrangement is made for transfer or assessed in two consecutive annual examinations as being below standard or a reasoned judgement passed by the disciplinary committee or the child or parent fails to fulfil any prescribed condition, including non-payment of fee of a private school.
The ordinance says the in-charge of a school shall ensure a child is not subjected to corporal punishment or harassment. A person found contravening provisions of admission, expulsion and corporal punishment shall be held guilty and liable to disciplinary action.
The ordinance has also discussed duties of teachers, including maintaining regularity, timely completion of curriculum, assessing students’ learning abilities, trying all-round development of a child, building up a child’s knowledge, adopting learning through activities, keeping a child free of fear, trauma and anxiety and holding regular meetings with parents.
It says the teachers failing to perform their duties in a satisfactory manner shall be liable to disciplinary action.