Inayatullah September 8 was the International Literacy Day 2011. A headline in one of the leading newspapers of the country was Punjabs 3.8 million illiterate kids mock literacy day. The correspondents report inter alia made the points that all indicators on the literacy and education front were depressing, as even the existing schools were being closed in the name of rationalisation, instead of increasing their number to at least meet an enormous 3.2 percent population rate. This report may not be entirely correct, since the population growth rate is certainly much less than 3.2 percent. But the fact remains that around 35 million people in the Punjab are presently illiterate, while the literacy programmes taken in hand fall far short of the targets laid down in the National Plan of Action. Therefore, attaining the committed rate of 86 percent by the year 2015 remains a distant dream. Again while Punjab is the only province where the Literacy Department is headed by a whole time Secretary, a recent economy drive has resulted in the abolition of all the posts of EDOs literacy in the districts. Thus, adding to the burden carried by the EDOs Education. What is not realised is that there is a big difference between formal and non-formal education. The non-formal approach is flexible and open to experimentation in approach and methodology. The hardened formal education teachers, planners and managers, including the EDOs Education, are not professionally suitable for organising and managing non-formal basic education programmes. In the International Literacy Day meeting on September 8 in Lahore, the nature and importance of non-formal education was rightly highlighted. Sadly, the position about literacy programmes in the other three provinces is no better. In fact, it is much worse, as elucidated below. The number of literacy centres run in Balochistan has not exceeded a few hundred during the last five or six years with the result that there are areas in the province where the literacy rate is less than even 10 percent. As for Sindh, it will be instructive to look at a statement released by the Sindh (attached) Department of Literacy and Non-Formal Education on September 8. Some of the information dished out is: l 78 percent women in rural areas cannot read and write. l 77 percent girls and women in rural areas have never attended schools. l More than one-third of the students leave schools before passing class V. Added to the Sindh governments publicised information sheet are the following rhetorical slogans: l Education is the key to a nations development. l Our commitment is 'Education For All. l Our goal: All people in Sindh must be educated. l Let us join hands for a literate and enlightened Sindh. The actual position on the ground is that only a fraction of the number of literacy centres required to be set up under the National Plan of Action have been started. There is not even a remote possibility to achieve the committed Dakar EFA goals by the year 2015. Thousands of schools in Sindh have remained closed because of the forcible occupation of the buildings by waderas and other local influentials. The quality of instruction imparted at the learning centres is poor and monitoring system is practically non-existent. Literacy programmes could with advantage be outsourced to the Sindh Education Foundation headed by Anita Ghulam Ali. But this has not been done, despite the foundations willingness to take up this work. Now a look at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). It is tragic to find that a most promising literacy programme started by the Elementary Education Foundation in KP under the dynamic leadership of its first Managing Director, Mushtaq Jadoon, has been totally stopped (because of the reported personal whim of the ANP Education Minister) bringing the literacy efforts in the province to a standstill. The irony of it is that 2010 was declared the National Literacy Year by PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, while presiding over a meeting in Peshawar to celebrate the International Literacy Day. To cap the above account of the state of literacy programmes in Pakistan, the National Commission for Human Development too has been starved of funds with the result that almost all the literacy programmes have been halted in the provinces. The hope for the revival of these programmes (which at one stage had around 50,000 literacy centres running all over the country) is fast disappearing. After the 18th Amendment under which education has been devolved to the provinces, NCHDs activities will, with luck, in future, be confined to the federally administered or controlled territories. To add to the depressing literacy situation in the country, it has come to light that thousands of teachers running the non-formal basic education schools for out-of-school children have not been paid salaries by the National Education Foundation for the last 10 months. As no funds were provided to undertake the activities planned for the National Literacy Year in 2010, the Prime Minister had shifted special literacy activities to the year 2011. Unfortunately, 2011 has also entered its last quarter and there are no signs of any National Literacy Year Programme being implemented. After the 18th Amendment, with education now a provincial subject, the Ministry of Education abolished and no mechanism for planning and monitoring of literacy programmes at the national level, the whole responsibility for the promotion of literacy has fallen on the provinces. Considering that after the National Finance Award much larger financial resources have come to the provincial governments, it was expected that enhanced allocations would be made for education, including literacy. This, however, has not happened because of the lack of political will and a general unconcern for literacy in the civil society and even the media. In South Asia, Pakistan provides the lowest allocation for education, in real terms, less than 2 percent of GDP, while India and Nepal are allocating 4 percent on education. Whatever little activity one sees on the literacy horizon in Pakistan is because of the excellent work done by UNESCO to keep the issue alive. The credit also goes to UNICEF, JICA, some other international donors and a few NGOs working for the cause of literacy and non-formal basic education. Notice needs to be taken of the special efforts being made by Dr Kozue Kay Nagata, Director of the UNESCO in Pakistan, and PILDAT to persuade our law makers in the central and provincial elected houses to promulgate an appropriate legislation with a view to enforcing the new Article 25(A) inserted in the 18th Amendment of the Constitution, which has made the Right to Free Education justiceable. Hopefully, this law will soon be passed. The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and political and international relations analyst. Email: pacadepak@gmail.com