Experts call for increase in budget to ensure free and compulsory education in Punjab

Lahore (Muhammad Yasir) Education experts at an advocacy forum while projecting the vitality of education towards an educated society and national progress, have emphasized on the need for girls education with more focus on the increased allocation of budget for this sector especially in Punjab.

The advocacy forum was arranged by the Awaz CDS Pakistan here with a major focus to highlight the importance of education without any gender bias and raise demand for sufficient budgetary allocation for education sector.

Chief Executive Awaz CDS Pakistan Zia ur Rehman; Professor of Economics, University of Central Punjab, Lahore, Dr Qais Aslam, Additional Secretary (P&D) School System Qaiser Rasheed, and Director General of Punjab Assembly Anayat Ullah Lak; spoke on the occasion while a number of representatives of education sector organizations joined the forum.

In his opening remarks, Zia ur Rehman gave an overview of the educational facilities in the Punjab province in terms of gender and region. He explained that education plays a vital role in shaping up an educated and skilled society that leads to national economic prosperity.

He further emphasized upon the provincial government to ensure equal as well as quality education in all areas of the province without any discrimination.

To achieve this goal, the Awaz CDS Pakistan Chief Executive urged the government to immediately notify the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act 2014.

In his remarks, Dr. Qais Aslam from the University of Central Punjab said that the current overall education level in the province is not up to the mark as there still exist a number of barricades in terms of social circumstances, access to schools, paucity of public funds, lack of furniture and other facilities.

According to him, these bottlenecks can be removed significantly if the provincial government prioritized this important sector by earmarking an increased chunk of the budget. He said that according to the Pakistan Bureau of statistics (PSLM 2019-20), 16% urban while 28% rural children of Punjab are still Out of School whereas percentage of out of school children is increasing which shows a need of great seriousness towards education as we have the one of the largest pool of young people who will go wasted otherwise.

Additional Secretary (P&D) School System Qaiser Rasheed acknowledged the irritants towards equal opportunities, especially in remote areas. He threw light on the budget allocated for education, especially girls education. He further said that Chief Minister Punjab, Mr. Hamza Shehbaz  has already called for briefings from education sector and he appreciated the afternoon schools programs.

He highlighted the importance of Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs) and vocational trainings alongwith scholarships given to underprivileged children and parents of communities working at Brick kilns. He, however, said that despite these odd factors the provincial government is making all-out efforts to ensure provision of facilities at schools across the province.

Anayat Ullah Lak shared the history of Free and Compulsory Education Act and he endorsed that the girls education is not getting the level of seriousness required to ensure quality education for girls in the province. He said that free compulsory education can play a significant role in ensuring education to all with increased students enrolment at schools. He said that the provincial government’s initiatives towards free and compulsory education is a significant initiative and mentioned provision of free text books to students on annual basis.

He assured to also take up the issue of delayed notification of the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act 2014 with the relevant government authorities as it would pave the way towards provision of equal and quality education to all.

Education Champion-Ms. Marium Amjad shared that according to Economic Survey of Pakistan 2021-2022, 25.7 million children were enrolled in Primary classes (I-V) and Out of these 11.7 million (45.5%) were girls. It is interesting to note that only 8.25 million went up to the next level (Middle stage of VI-VIII classes) and out of which 3.8 million (46.0%) were girls and only 2.5 million passed their metric (class X) and reached Inter level, out of which 1.3 million (52%) were girls. She demanded attention from Punjab Government in form of declaring Education Emergency in the province.

A question-answer session followed the discussion, where the participants raised related questions regarding contribution on the part of private sector and the government initiatives on free and compulsory education in the province.

In his concluding remarks, Chief Executive Awaz CDS Pakistan Zia ur Rehman thanked the stakeholders, experts and other participants for giving their inputs on the advocacy forum agenda.