KARACHI - Taking lead on other provinces, the Sindh Assembly on Wednesday passed a law to ensure implementation on Article 25-A of the Constitution, which provides free and compulsory education to all children of aged five to 16 years.

When Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq tabled the ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2013’ for consideration, almost every lawmaker from government to opposition benches praised the Sindh government especially the education department for implementing the Article 25-A of the Constitution, that was inserted in 18th Amendment in 2009, which gives right to free and compulsory education to every child of the age of five to 16 years regardless to sex and race.  

Speaking on the salient features of the bill, the education minister said that following the insertion of Article 25-A in the Constitution after 18th amendment all the provinces had to pass a provincial law to declare free and compulsory education for all children of aged five to 16 as fundamental right of the government and implement it.

“Today is day of happiness and jubilation for all of us as we are taking lead on other provinces in passing the law of free education to all,” education minister told the House. He explained that no law is perfect as we are laying foundation for free and compulsory education in the province today.

He said that under the law, all children from aged five to 16 years would get free and compulsory education from class one to secondary.

Mazhar said Pakistan and other South Asian countries were behind in achieving of Millennium Development Goal of 100 per cent literacy rate by 2015, claiming that we could raise only 10 per cent in literacy rate during last five years in the province.

He said that even countries like Ethiopia, Somalia and other under developed countries spending more and using technology in education than Pakistan.

Mazhar said that punishment and fine of Rs50,000 had been proposed in the law for the private schools, which fail in enrolling for free education of 10pc of children to disadvantaged/poor children and terrorism victims’ children.

MQM’s parliamentary leader Sardar Ahmed while congratulating the government emphasised for implementation of law in letter and spirit.

Sardar Ahmed, who served as senior bureaucrat for years in the province, recalled that there was qualitative education in public sector schools because access to education was compulsory before creation of Pakistan in the province.

But with the passage of time, the education went deteriorating as today’s Pakistan stands bottom at 143rd out of 180 countries in education sector, of which girls’ education is poor in the province of Sindh.

Sindh Culture Minister Sassui Palijo said that lately but right step was taken by the education department by bringing free and compulsory education for all children.

Arif Jatoi of NPP from the opposition side appreciated the government for tabling the bill and suggested that government should give incentives, stipends and funds to the private schools for poor students’ free education.

Marvi Rashdi of PML-F said that no doubt, free education bill was a good step which would reduce the gap in rich and poor education system.

She suggested the government to insert a clause for enrolling poor children from rural and suburb areas for free education in private schools.

Humera Alwani of ruling PPP drew the attention of the House towards a report of 72,000 religious seminaries running in the country, of which 18,000 existed in Sindh. She said that these seminaries were teaching extremism as there was no check or monitoring of their syllabus.

Nawab Taimour Talpur of the ruling PPP said that right to free education should be included for transgender in the law. 

Later, the education minister read the bill clause-by-clause, which the House passed unanimously.

The law comprising of eight chapters stated that children of disadvantaged class-economically, socially or whose annual income limit is lower than the minimum limit as well as victims of terrorism shall have the right to free education in public sector, besides they shall be enrolled in private schools with ratio of 10 per cent of attendance of class.

Under the law, every school shall constitute a school management committee with the equal representation from government, teachers under the chairmanship of head/principal of school, which ensure enrolment of children and implementation of the education policy. According to law, the school management committee to propose punishment of Rs5,000 as fine for the parents who fail to ensure sending child/children to school.

The law stated that the school management committee after giving the parent an opportunity of being heard and after such enquires as it considers necessary, may pass an order directing the parent to ensure child to attend a school on and for a date which shall be specified in the order.

The sub-section (4) of clause 16 of proposed law categorically stated that any parent who fails to comply with an order issued under this section for attending the children school, the school management committee’s decision will be treated as conviction for parent, while punishment will start with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees and with further fine which may extend to five hundred rupees for every day after the conviction for which the failure continues or with imprisonment which may extend to three month or with both.

Besides, punishment has been suggested for employer of children, who fail in sending the child school. The School Management Committee will give warning to the employer of the child, if employer of child fails to comply it he will liable to face punishment with fine of fifty thousand rupees or with imprisonment, which may extends to six months or with both. After warning and decision of conviction announced by the school management committee, the punishment shall extend to one thousand rupees for every day for employer of child for non-attendance at a school continues.

The new law stated no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him/her for perusing and completing the secondary education.

According to law, if any private school receives fee/donation from the children, enrolled for free education, such school management shall face punishment of fine of rupees fifty thousand or imprisonment of three months.

It would be mandatory that private school shall admit disadvantaged children of neighborhood in class one and then in every class to the extent of at least twenty percent of the 10 per cent of that class to provide free education till the education level of that school.

Corporal punishment has been banned in the schools.