Legislation on free, compulsory education awaits implementation in KP

Published October 17, 2021
This file photo shows female students during class. — AP/File
This file photo shows female students during class. — AP/File

PESHAWAR: The education department has failed to implement the legislation made more than four years ago for the provision of compulsory primary and secondary education to the children free of charge.

The last PTI government led by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had got the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Free and Compulsory Primary and Secondary Education Bill, 2017, passed by the provincial assembly on April 14 the same year.

Sources in the elementary and secondary education department told Dawn that legislation on free primary and secondary education had been in cold storage as no steps had been taken for its implementation.

They said the rationale for legislation was to enrol out-of-school children across the province.

Section 3(1) of the law says: “The government shall provide free, compulsory primary and secondary education to all the children from age five to 16 years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

Official insists law flawed, new one to be introduced

According to a survey conducted by the provincial government and international organisations lately, over 52 per cent population of the seven merged tribal districts is illiterate, while those, who have studied up to primary level, make 22 per cent of the educated population.

The survey was jointly conducted by the planning and development department, Merged Areas Governance Programme and United Nations Development Programme with the financial assistance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of United Kingdom.

The exercise revealed that the people with middle level formal learning are 10 per cent of the educated population, while only seven per cent of the literate people have matriculated.

According to it, only 3.5 per cent of the population have studied up to intermediate level, while around two per cent have bachelor’s degrees in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The provincial government had made the law in light of Article 25-A of the Constitution, which declares: “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law.” The article was incorporated into the Constitution through 18th Amendment in 2010.

The law also said the parents, who failed to enrol their children in a school without any proper reason, would, on conviction by a judicial magistrate, be punishable with imprisonment, which might extend to one month or fine, which might extend up to Rs100 for every day after the conviction, or both.

For the enforcement of the legislation, it was mandatory for the elementary and secondary education department to make rules and define all aspects of the law.

Under Section 8 of the law, the government may make rules by notification for carrying out the purposes of this Act.

Officials said the education department had not framed those rules during the last more than four years.

They said around two years ago, the education department had proposed the rules, which shuttled between the education and law departments for several months for the removal of flaws.

An official of the education department told Dawn that no one in the department bothered to take updates about the proposed rules.

elementary and secondary education minister Shehram Tarakai was not available for comments on the matter.

However, a senior official of the education department told Dawn that first, the department decided about the amendment of the Free and Compulsory Primary and Secondary Education Act, 2017, as there were certain flaws, but after sometime, it decided that another law would be made to repeal the existing one and requested the UNDP to help prepare the draft.

He said the UNDP prepared the proposed legislation and handed it over to the education department for introduction in the provincial assembly for approval, butit had been in cold storage.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2021

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