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ISLAMABAD: The attack on 12 schools in Diamer, Gilgit-Baltistan, has been condemned by the Society for Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc), which has urged decision makers to undertake measures to ensure such incidents are not repeated.

The Royini Girls Schools, Takya Girls School, a school each in the Hodur and Thor neighbourhoods and schools in the Darel division, Giyal village, Khanbanri, Gali Bala and Gali Payen were set on fire late at night on Aug 3.

According to a statement issued by Sparc on Wednesday, Article 25-A of the Constitution makes education a basic right for children between the ages of five and 16, but according to recent estimates 22.6 million children are out of school.

The statement noted that the law for free and compulsory education has not been passed yet, although it has been presented in the GB Legislative Assembly.

“While the issue of proper implementation of Article-25A is being emphasized in other parts of the country, why there has been no attention paid to legislation of such law in Gilgit-Balitistan and then its effective implementation,” it asked.

“We talk about raising awareness and breaking cultural barriers in certain geographical area or among particular marginalized groups but how can one convince people to send their children to school in such set of circumstances,” the statement went on.

Sparc said it was fortunate no casualties had occurred because the fires were set at night, but raised the question of the consequences had such fires occurred while children were in school.

It added: “The event clearly points towards gender disparity as the majority of targeted schools are girls-only. The ratio of female students enrolled in schools is much lower than the male students across Pakistan, and the gap becomes more visible at secondary or high school level.”

In a 2017 report, Human Rights Watch said attacks by the Taliban and other militant groups had disrupted the education of thousands of Pakistani children, particularly girls.

A total of Rs902.7 billion was allocated for education in the 2017-18 budget by federal and provincial governments, while the development expenditure on education in GB only increased from Rs1bn to approximately Rs1.5bn – an increase of 53pc.

This amount is just 8.4pc of the total development budget; there is no breakup available for allocations by functions, and therefore it is not possible to have a clear idea of the distribution of resources at various levels of education.

The statement said new school buildings, upgrades and the provision of missing facilities were the main objects of expenditure.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2018