July 26, 2012: National Dialogue held by NCHD, FOSI and ITA

Islamabad: A Dialogue on Article 25 A: Right to Education was organized by National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) in collaboration with Open Society Institutes and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in Serena Hotel Islamabad. The Dialogue was divided in two sessions where the first session involved panel discussion with eminent representatives from the major political parties of Pakistan. This session was moderated by Baela Raza Jamil, Trustee/Advisor ITA. Welcome remarks and introduction was given by Dr. Nafisa Shah, chairperson NCHD and MNA PPP. The panelists included:

– Senator Akram Zaki (Pakistan Muslim League – Q)

– Professor Nizam-ud-din (Jamaat-e-Islami)

– Senator Dr. Abdul Malik (National Party Balochistan)

– Senator Haji Adil (Awami National Party)

– Imrana Syed Jamil (Muttahida Qaumi Movement)

– Akram Shah (Pakhtoonkhua Milli Awami Party)

– Taj Haider (Pakistan Peoples Party)

– Dr. Azra Fazal (Pakistan Peoples Party)

– Pir Mazhar ul Haq (Pakistan Peoples Party)

– Major General (R) Mohammad Tahir (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf)

– Aasia Nasir (Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam – F)

– Senator Rozina Khalid (Pakistan Muslim League – N)

During the discussion, both representatives from JI and JUI-F, professor Nizam-ud-dina and Aasia Nasser respectively, agreed that the knowledge of the world is as important as religious knowledge and that the government needs to provide for this fundamental right for everyone equally. Dr. Abdul Malik criticized the current government for not giving education its due importance and ensured that education is a priority of the National Party Balochistan. From the ANP, Haji Adeel stated the grim state of girls’ literacy rates in Pakistan and the need to upgrade their opportunities. Representing the MQM, Imrana Syed Jamil emphasized that unless discrepancy amongst provinces is not curbed at all levels, progress in the education sector is nearly impossible.

Mr Akram Shah from the PMAP shared the efforts by his party for education access to all children in their province. He lauded the inclusion of Article 25 A in the constitution but reminded us that the implications of implementing this right need to be considered. Major General (R) Mohammad Tahir also shared PTI’s plan to declare education emergency as soon as they come in power and remove all inequalities amongst provinces. Ms Rozina from PML-N said that at the current rate of progress, we will unfortunately not be able to achieve any of the MDGs or EFA targets. She stressed the need for a vision to improve the situation in this sector and expressed hope for gradual change. Representing the PPP, Taj Haider highlighted the need to focus on early childhood education since this is the time for basic human development, while Dr. Azra expressed the importance of inclusive education for girls at all levels. Session one concluded after Senator Akram Zaki (PML-Q) spoke on the significance of Article 25 A and the need to devise actionable steps for its enforcement.

In the second session, prominent members (Secretaries/Additional Secretaries) from the Departments of Education in all provinces and areas presented the status of education progress and shared their views on the implications and way forward for Article 25A. Mr. Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq, Provincial Minister Education Sindh, elaborated the need for all segments of society to be united for the cause of education.

Children from Aagahi center, Sohan, presented the summary of signatures collected during the One Million Signature Campaign (March 6 to July 10, 2012) and a Charter of Demands to all politicians to demand free and compulsory education provision for all children of the age of 5-16 years as per Article 25 A of the eighteenth constitutional amendment. These Aagahi centers, spread across Rawalpindi/Islamabad, cater for the learning of out of school children, especially children involved in child domestic labor and IDPs.

All representatives of the political parties signed the Declaration for Implementation of Article 24 A: Free and Compulsory Education for all children of the age of 5-16 years.