December 3, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Underlining the need for free education of children of five to 16 years and for ending the menace of ghost schools in the country, the Supreme Court on Friday called for ‘authoritative legislation’ to establish Accreditation Boards in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and the four provinces.
In a 100-page detailed judgment in a suo motu case relating to the plight of girl students, the court suggested that such boards should have the authority to take measures for improving the conditions of educational institutions.
The suo motu proceedings were initiated on a letter by Prof Dr Gulzar A. Niazi from the US to the chief justice on April 20, 2012, to which a picture from the front page of an English language newspaper of the same date was attached.
The caption of the picture read: “Gujranwala: Girls sit beside graves while taking a test during their daily classes in the graveyard here on Thursday. The government allocates less than four per cent of the budget … more than 180 million people.”
The letter also deplored that billions of rupees were spent on distributing laptops to students which is a unique example and the vice-chancellor of Punjab University sanctioned Rs30 million to distribute just 30 laptops by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. But the heart-breaking picture, the letter alleged, showed that the government had totally failed in providing even the basic education to its people. “Have you ever heard that students are being taught in a classroom in a graveyard?”
The judgment which was authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said the boards should ensure removal of ghost schools with a penal action against the people found guilty of receiving salary and other perks without performing duties. The recommendations of the boards, it said, should be implemented forthwith by a competent authority so that improvement in the conditions of the schools was visible. The boards should also consider approaching respective governments with a plea that teachers be allowed to perform their task of imparting education, which was their basic assignment.
The respective institutions may make alternative arrangements of manpower from other departments to achieve the objective.
“This is an issue of national importance adversely affecting the future prosperity of Pakistan,” the verdict said, adding that the provincial governments would be bound to enforce fundamental rights enshrined in articles 9 and 25A of the constitution.
The provincial governments and ICT must also enhance budgetary allocations for the improvement of the education system and also provide mechanism to ensure presence of students at the primary, middle and high school levels, the verdict said.
It asked provincial governments to ensure recovery of the possession of schools buildings, which have been illegally occupied by influential people and if there is any litigation pending, the registrars of the respective high courts should ensure the decision of the cases expeditiously.
Similarly, cases pending before high courts and the Supreme Court concerning school properties should also be disposed of expeditiously, the verdict said.