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Right to education

There have been several initiatives on education in recent years in the wake of the publicity generated by the education emergency task force. These have ranged from enrolment campaigns to investment in school infrastructure. educationThis development has coincided with the passage of the 18th Amendment which has not just moved education from the concurrent to the provincial list but also made the right to education part of the Constitution in the form of the Article 25-A which requires the state to provide free and compulsory education to children from five to 16 years.On the heels of this amendment, right to education campaigns are surfacing in different projects. This has led to greater awareness. Historically the right to education has been part of various international covenants and conventions long before we woke up to its importance. The right to education, and the different dimensions of this right, figure prominently in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has identified four core elements of state obligation with regard to operationalising the right to education. The four elements are: availability, accessibility, affordability and adaptability. These core contents should form part of the on-going discussion on the right to education in Pakistan as they are useful in untangling the thicket of problems surrounding the implementation of this right. Right to education places on the state a duty to draw up an action plan to make education widely and freely available. In Pakistan the right to education stands in danger of being circumscribed by the non-availability of the required number of schools in proportion to the growing population. In particular there is a lack of girls’ schools. The second core element is the state’s obligation to make education accessible on a non-discriminatory basis. Attached to accessibility are the two other dimensions of safe physical and economic access. Children face immense problems in accessing schools located far from their homes, especially girls for whom the issue of physical safety on the way to school is of paramount importance. As for economic accessibility, even small charges extracted in the guise of different funds often deter children of poor families from accessing education. The state is also obliged to make sure that education provided is acceptable to both parents and children and is of uniform quality. This core element includes the right of children to be free from indoctrination. Anyone with a passing interest in our education system can identify this as a big problem when the curricula being taught have been exposed as biased and hate-filled. A fourth core obligation relates to adaptability which requires that the education provided to children is adapted to their needs and is of consistent quality. Right now it is not clear how the right to education will be fully realised in line with the requirements laid down in international covenants and human rights instruments in the absence of weak monitoring mechanisms. One study has identified six key policy-level factors for the successful implementation of the right to education. These critical factors are: political will, financial commitment, central role of the public sector, equity in public finance, reducing the cost of education to households and the integration of education into wider human development goals. None of these six critical elements are visible in any integrated way in our education policy. And the possibility of aligning them in a coherent way in the service of operationalising the right to education seems slim despite some signs of stimulated political will in many initiatives. Yet getting the other five key factors in place will remain an uphill task thanks to low financial allocation for education and the declining role of the public sector in education coinciding with the mushrooming of private schools. Therefore any discussion on the right to education has to be anchored in a broader international framework of human rights and the best practices from countries that have invested in public-sector education to make the right to education a reality. In fact, it is estimated that it would cost the developing world only $8-9 billion annually for a decade to make primary education available to all. This amount represents only four days’ worth of global military spending, seven days’ worth of currency speculation in international markets and less than half of what North Americans spend on toys for their children in a year.–Dawn  ]]>

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