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LAHORE, Dec 24: Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) parliamentary leader Chaudhry Zaheer has submitted a bill to the Punjab Assembly, calling for compulsory free education for children up to 16 years of age.

The bill, submitted to the assembly under Article 25-A of the Constitution that is part of the 18th Amendment passed more than two years ago, requires free and compulsory education for children aged 5 to 16.

The PML-Q leader says the Punjab government is continuously ignoring the constitutional requirement, although a resolution in this regard had been filed with the provincial assembly three months ago.

The proposed law prescribes that every child aged five to 16, regardless of sex, nationality, race or religion, shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school. No child shall leave or be made to leave the school before completion of the prescribed education even after 16 years of age.

The government shall establish a system of grants-in-aid to support school attendance of poor students, as may be prescribed, and no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee, charges or expenses in relation to admission and education at school, except as may be prescribed.

The government and the local authority shall establish within such limits of neighbourhood, as may be prescribed, a school, within a period of four years from the commencement of this Act.

As long as there is no government owned school in a neighbourhood, the education of children going to private schools in that neighbourhood will be financed to the extent of average education cost per child in a government owned school.

In the neighbourhoods where no school or educational institution exists, the government in consultation with the community will notify teachers and places where children may receive free and compulsory education.

The parents of a child shall, except in case of a reasonable excuse, make a child attend a school in the neighbourhood until the child completes the prescribed education. Reasonable excuse includes incapability to attend school by reason of an infirmity or mental incapacity. No school or person, while admitting a child, shall collect any capitation fee and subject the child or his/her parents to any screening procedure.

If any school or person receives capitation fee, they shall be punishable with fine, which may be 20 times the capitation fee charged for the first contravention and Rs50,000 for each subsequent violation.

Subjecting a child or parents to screening procedure shall be punishable with fine, which may extend to Rs50,000 for the first contravention and Rs100,000 for each subsequent contravention.

A private school shall provide free education to such proportion of children admitted therein, as its annual aid or grant so received bears to its annual recurring expenses. No child admitted to a school shall leave or be made to leave school till the completion of the prescribed education. No child shall be subjected to corporal punishment or harassment.

Whoever contravenes the provisions of this section shall be liable to disciplinary action under the service rules. No person shall be appointed as a teacher unless [s]he possesses the prescribed qualifications. Where the persons having the prescribed qualifications are not available, the appropriate government may, by notification, relax the prescribed qualifications, for a period not exceeding two years.

The government shall ensure that the prescribed child-teacher ratio is maintained in each school within two years from the date of commencement of this Act.

Any parent who fails to comply with an order issued under sub-section 12(3) of the Act shall on conviction before magistrate be punishable with fine, which may extend to Rs5,000 and with further fine, which may extend to Rs500 for every day after the conviction for which the failure continues or with imprisonment, which may extend to three months or both.

An employer who has employed a child requires under this Act to send him/her to school, and if he continues to employ a child after receiving due warning from the local authority, whether on remuneration or otherwise, he shall be punishable with a fine, which may extend to Rs50,000 or with imprisonment, which may extend to six months, or with both. He shall be punishable after the conviction with a further fine, which may extend to Rs1,000 per day for which child’s absence from school continues.