Once upon a 'free education' bill

Published April 13, 2015
The bill was passed with much enthusiasm, the will to provide 'free and compulsory education' lies eating dust somewhere.—AFP/file
The bill was passed with much enthusiasm, the will to provide 'free and compulsory education' lies eating dust somewhere.—AFP/file

The primary objective of the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2013 is “to provide for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years”.

The bill was passed with much enthusiasm, but, sadly, it is a long way from implementation by the government and other stakeholders.

As 'ghosroo' (ghost) teachers continue to plague Sindh's schools and shortage of space (and often, even walls), along with poverty and inaccessibility hinder the schooling of Sindh's children; the will to provide 'free and compulsory education' lies eating dust somewhere.

Also read: Why we have 'Ghosro Masters' and how to put an end to them

Point 1 in chapter II of the bill says, “Every child of the age of five to 16 years regardless of sex and race shall have a fundamental right to free and compulsory education in a school”. It has been two years since and the government perhaps still does not know that in the Badin district, many villages are without schools at all, with the illiteracy rate growing rapidly.

Point 4 of chapter III says that, “it is obligation of the government to;

(a) provide free education to every child,

(b) ensure compulsory admission and attendance to complete school education,

(d) provide infrastructure including standard school building, playgrounds, laboratories, teaching material and teaching staff”.

However, there are some schools in the heart of a few districts where there is no laboratory, no playground and no effective teaching and learning material.

Take a look: Many govt educational institutions lack basic facilities, says Khuhro

I recently met a motorbike mechanic, Rajab Ali Gunsar from Islamkot, Tharparkar, who spent a large chunk of our conversation ruing his lack of education.

“Despite earning a decent amount from repairing motorbikes, I feel guilty about being illiterate. I think everyone should acquire and be enabled to acquire education.”

Does anyone care about Rajab or the millions of others with the same aspiration?

The government's pathetic indifference and lack of vision has only led to an increased illiteracy rate, unawareness and an increasingly confused, resource-less and frustrated youth.

If this bill is to be implemented at all, every institution involved needs to give its input on how to better enable it.

We need more than legislation; we need consensus and concerted efforts by stakeholders across society. The provincial government must start solving the problems responsible for the failure of past initiatives.

Every year, the ASER report paints an even worse picture of education in Sindh. Let's aim to change that this year.


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