Pakistan as a state is obliged under a number of commitments made internationally or nationally to provide quality education irrespective of their class, gender, ethnicity or physical orientation. Article 25-A of the constitution has made responsible to the state for the provision of free and compulsory education to all the children till the 16 years of age.

Besides many other rights, Pakistan promised under article28 of United Nation Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) for the provision of free primary education to all the children and access to scientific and technical knowledge through modern teaching methods in the country. Article 23 makes the state responsible for appropriate measures to ensure that all physically disabled children could enjoy a full and decent life with the assurance of their dignity, self-reliance, children’s active participation in decision making and budgetary allocation for these children to enjoy these rights.

The goal four of Sustainable Development goals obligates Pakistan to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Not to forget the broken promise of millennium development goal two where Pakistan had a target to achieve the Provision of free and primary education to children without any discrimination but actually, Pakistan couldn’t fulfil its objective due to historically embedded and multipronged hurdles in the educational systems, influenced by the social disparities and economic constraints.

Recently the two incidents of corporal punishments with the special children in Lahore and Sambrial were not only the direct violation of article 19 of the UNCRC, which makes the states responsible to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence but as well as it indicates the two major built-in problems of our educational system, the lack of conceptual clarity of inclusive education and corporal punishment.

Addressing the first issue the concept of inclusive education, our state; must ensure the support by every mean to the schools, teachers and families in order to achieve relevant and effective learning outcome from differently able children, have to reaffirm the commitment to ensure all the learners with disabilities acquire knowledge and skills without any discrimination, equal access to affordable technical, vocational, tertiary and higher quality education, refurbishing of teacher’s education curricula aligned with the philosophy of inclusiveness and minimum international standards, regular schools should be open and friendly to admit all children in their vicinity, referring a child to special school should only be an option of last resort, must devise an education Policy in accordance with the spirit of Article 24 of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006. State should prioritise establishment of the provincial inclusive education task force, with a mandate of monitoring of inclusive education in the province, parents, teachers and community collaboration to ensure the protection of the rights of all children.

The second issue is Corporal punishment the most pervasive form of the violence against children and unfortunately it prevalence is widespread in our society, at schools, madrasahs and workplace. Every other day we find a video on social media showing the physical violence against children. Our societal attitude is friendly towards the acceptance of corporal punishment due to traditional, cultural and many other reasons. Although we are a nation where the literacy rate is not even satisfactory, violence against children within school premises and menace of corporal punishment in schools is one of the biggest reasons of dropouts from the school. In June 2017, Committee against Torture in its Concluding observations on the initial report of Pakistan showed concerned that “Provisions in the State party’s laws allow for the imposition of corporal punishment, including whipping, amputation and stoning. The State party should take the necessary legislative measures to eradicate and explicitly prohibit all forms of corporal punishment in all settings, as they amount to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in violation of the Convention.”

Through 2nd criminal amendment Act, 2016 in Pakistan Penal Code, the cruelty to children has been criminalised. 328-A defines “Whoever wilfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or does an act of omission or commission that results in or has, potential to harm or injure the child by causing physical or psychological injury to him shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend up to three years, or with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five thousand rupees and may extend up to fifty thousand rupees, or with both”. Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act.2014 has also settled corporal punishment an act of misconduct and liable to disciplinary action against the culprit. However, this law still needs to be notified for enforcement. The former Honorable Chief justice of Lahore High Court took notice of the cruel incidents with special children and ordered to constitute the commission under the chairmanship of Dr Pervez Hasssan. The commission is working and will submit the report on the issues of Protection & Safety, Inclusive Education, Capacity building, Health, Nutrition & Educational Needs and Impartial Complaint Mechanisms etc. of the special education department.

 

The writer is child rights activist and law practitioner in Lahore.

@miqdadnaqvi