Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, announcing an enrollment campaign launched by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education (KPESE), said that enrolling every child in school is his party’s priority.
Back in April 2015, Khan made an announcement through social media that an enrollment campaign for children had been launched by the KPESE.
Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the right to free and compulsory education to all children between ages 5 to 16 years in Pakistan. This free and compulsory education is to be provided by the state, which by definition includes both federal and provincial governments.
According to a report released by the Academy of Education Planning and Management, Federal Ministry for Higher Education and Professional Training, in February 2016, the total population of children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (primary to higher secondary) is 6.8 million, while the total enrolment rests at 4.4 million.
The report is based on the enrolment data received from the provinces, and the total population of girls/boys is based on the projections by the National Institute of Population Studies, operating under the Federal Ministry of National Health Services.
KP Education Minister Muhammad Atif didn’t respond to telephone calls or text messages as News Lens tried to seek comment.
However, Shaukat Yousafzai, Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) and a PTI stalwart, said PTI has done, in the past, and is doing whatever it can to improve the quality of education such as increasing the number of teachers and making the teaching staff regular in discharging their duties.
“In three-year terms it is really a gigantic task to keep everything 100 per cent in line. But we have worked hard,” Yousafzai added.
He said that 10 to 15 per cent of children have left private schools and got admission in government-run educational institutions because of improved education quality in the public schools.
When asked whether his party has any plan for out of school children, he said: “The PTI has almost built consensus to bring legislation to either deny National Identity Cards for those children who do not go to school or punish their parents.”
Nuzhat Amin, Programme Manager Education at Khwand Kor (KK), an NGO that works in the education sector, said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the only province failing to pass any legislation on the implementation of Article 25-A (Free & Compulsory Education) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
“In the rest of the three provinces, including the federal capital, some initiatives have been taken on the Article 25-A where legislation has been done,” Amin added.
According to the data provided by Salahuddin Khan, Deputy Director IT department at the KPESE, the total number of school-age children is 6,276,726, with 4,219,789 attending government schools, 1,824,784 studying in private schools and 232,153 students go to Madrassas. It means that all of the school-aged children of KP go to school.
Sardar Hussain Babak, a lawmaker from Awami National Party (ANP) and former Education Minister, said that the PTI has announced implementation of education emergency but “you can see for yourself the ground realities as basic education is in shambles.”
He estimates the number of out-of-school children to be more than 1 million because a good number of kids could be seen on the streets.
“I ask the PTI to point out a single example where they have introduced any big reform in the education sector?” Babak questioned.
Fakhar Azam Wazir, a lawmaker from Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), said he is an eyewitness to the withdrawal of students from government-run schools to private schools owing to the dwindling education quality of the former.
“The PTI-led government is just kidding of enrolling every child in school at a time when entire examination halls are being sold for allowing students to cheat in examinations,” Wazir added.
He recalled that a high school in Kotka Ahmad Khan in Azim Kalay, which was a standard educational institution, has a total strength of 50 students today and the school had 3,000 students some years ago.
“It is a widely believed perception that private schools offer quality education comparatively, leaving government schools almost deserted,” he added.
He said there is no independent survey in KP to identify the number of out of school children but he believed the total number of those children is over 200,000 as projected by the government.
“The educational institutions in Bannu, my hometown, are in grip of cheating. The PTI has failed totally in reviving the education sector,” he added.
Ibrash Pasha, a renowned educational and social activist, said that the assessment of education sector’s performance is done keeping in mind the targets of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Education for All.
“But we badly failed to achieve these targets, with female education still a challenging job in the province,” Pasha noted. The province has a total of 22,000 primary schools with 14,000 for boys and the rest are for girls, he said.
The PTI-led government has taken some good initiative such as monitoring of the schools to ensure teachers’ attendance, Pasha said, but that monitoring system is silent regarding the qualification of the teachers.
“Over a million of children are still out of schools and the government has no plan in place for them,” he added. He said there are many reasons for children to be out of school such as non-existence of schools in some areas or community or cultural issues, which need to be tackled on an emergency basis.
Considering the data and details provided by the government, and in the light of facts and statements of PTI, opposition lawmakers and independent analyst, it appears that 2.4 million school-aged children of KP have not been enrolled in the schools. Therefore the PTI promise is compromised.