ISLAMABAD - A regional seminar and policy discussion on Right to Education (RTE) in South Asia was held Friday with key objective of taking stock of the RTE status at the regional level in the context of Education for All (EFA) goals and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The policy seminar also aimed to share information on practices and possibilities towards quality/learning, partnerships and private sector in the implementation of RTE in each context and to provide recommendations on the way forward for RTE and the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

Organised by the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in Islamabad this regional level roundtable discussion included representatives from the Ministry of Education (MOE) of Pakistan, (Provincial/Federal), India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to share progress made by the respective countries. The session was moderated by Balea Raza Jamil, Director Programmes ITA.

Perspectives on Right to Education from South Asian countries were shared by Dr Parth Shah, CCS India, Dr Manzoor Ahmed, BRAC Bangladesh, Kamal Pokharel, Director Department of Education Nepal, Razia Stanikzai, Senior Manager Pre-service at MoE Teacher General Education Directorate Afghanistan. Other speakers were Nargis Sultana, OSF, Saeed ul Hasan, OXFAM, Euphrates Gobina, UNICEF, Mosharraf Zaidi, Campaign Director Alif Ailaan and Shakeel Ahmad, UNDP.

Right to education is considered to be a basic universal fundamental right of every human being and is safeguarded in the constitutions of most of the countries. However, the situation is complex when it comes to the countries in South Asia, home to well over one fifth of the world's population with a mixed trend on access, quality and equity interfaced with fragile contexts.

Yet the greatest strength of South Asia is its human resources, a young population, innovative initiatives through partnerships and new media that can overcome deprivations and discrimination for substantive equity for ALL.

Although most of the countries in South Asia are making progress, it's not sufficient to achieve the targeted goals set out in MDGS and EFA goals.

Talking about the issue of access, which is central to RTE, Prof. Muhammad Rafique Tahir from Capital Administration and Development Division, ICT said that the federal government has taken steps like provision of free textbooks and free transportation to address this issue.

Saba Mushtaq, Chief Programme Officer Education and Literacy Department (E&LD) Sindh told the participants about extensive enrolment drives in Sindh and initiatives focused on eliminating the huge drop out in grade 2.

Ghulam Ali Baloch, Secretary Education Balochistan, highlighted that 309 schools have recently been made functional in Balochistan and more female teachers are being recruited to retain female students.

Highlighting the progress in Punjab, Ali Ahmad Kumboh informed the participants about the plans of Punjab government regarding increasing the number of schools to address the issue of access.

Talking about what is being done in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to resolve the issue of access, KPK Secretary Elementary and Secondary Education informed that free textbooks and stipends are being given to students.

Ismat Riaz, a professor and renowned academic, recommended that national recruitment of teachers should be done using NTS and forward planning to induct teachers for implementation of 25-A.