DURING study of urban slums in Lahore, it has been clearly identified that the poorest of the poor and marginalised sections of society are factually constrained by numerous social and economic variables beyond their control, not to exercise freedom of choice to access a school for their children at affordable cost. Even if they gather some resources and try to access and seek admission in a school, they do not find enabling, respectful, congenial and conducive environment in choice school and ultimately due to negative externalities, the children from less affluent households have more chances to be dropped out of school for ever than children from affluent households. The presumption that parents in urban slums are not sensitized about the importance of education is also not well founded. With veritable revolution in print and electronic media, the parents in urban slums and elsewhere are pretty sanguine now about the importance of education and cherish sending their children to schools, provided they get opportunities at affordable cost. The poor parents have secure understanding that quality education is the best way to get out of vicious circle of poverty. Pakistan is facing myriad challenges for improving access, equity and quality of education. The country has a population of 160 million people, 33% mired in abject poverty and living below the poverty line. The overall literacy rate is 54% whereas it is 36% for females. Pakistan has 6.5 million children out of school and 80% of them have never been enrolled in a school. 77% of the enrolled children drop out while climbing the ladder and reaching X grade. The country currently has an enviable annual growth rate of almost 6% but has the most unenviable profiles of human development. The Gender Parity Index (GDI) of Pakistan (0.73) is one of the lowest in the world. Pakistan is one of those countries where distance to school is a greater deterrent to schooling for girls than for boys. Keeping in view one of the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) indicators, there is an urgent need to have a system of affordable quality education, socially acceptable to all stakeholders. The Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has introduced the Education Voucher Scheme (EVS) in the slums of Lahore. The EVS is based on Prof Levin's framework for evaluating and designing vouchers, a renowned professor at Columbia University, New York. The framework ensures equity, productive efficiency, freedom of choice, and social cohesion. Levin proposed three policy instruments i.e. finance, regulation, and support services. Through EVS, the PEF has been successful ensuring access, equity and quality of education at much lower cost incurred by the public school system in the country i.e. Rs.300 per student per month with ensured presence of teachers and tested quality assurance mechanism. In two years, 70% beneficiaries out of 10,000 vouchers are students previously involved in child labour. Of the total voucher beneficiaries, 52% are boys and 48% girls. Of breadwinners in the targetted slums, 30% are daily wagers, 40% low paid private employees, 10% low paid government employees and 20% chance labourers. After six months of partnership of schools, the first quality assurance test (QAT) was administered wherein students from affluent households got 65% marks whereas the students benefiting form vouchers could get 40% marks - the bare minimum agreed standard required for continuation of financial assistance through education voucher to a particular school. The PEF launched training for the faculty in EVS schools to impact the learning outcomes of the children from less affluent households. In the second QAT conducted after a year, EVS students reached the mean average of 52%. The third QAT was conducted after eighteen months which revealed the learning outcomes from students of less affluent were on a par with their compatriots from affluent households. The learning outcomes and results of the EVS girls were better than EVS boys. After two years of launching EVS initiative, there has been substantial reduction in the petty crime in the slums. The national dropout rate in Pakistan is 40% by the time, students reach grade 4. There has not been a single dropout from 10,000 voucher beneficiaries during past two years. Schools track the students and ensure the presence of students in school because enrolment is randomly checked by PEF through surprise visits of monitoring and evaluation teams. Child labour is a social compulsion and is the result of unaffordable cost of education and inexcusable absence of enabling environment and educational institutions for the children of less affluent households. Parents are altruistic and would forego the small amount of money brought back home by the child for the larger social and economic benefits in future Once there is stoic determination and resilience of the schools, communities, parents, and there is assured financial and technical assistance mechanism in place, it is possible to ensure access, equity and quality of education for the disenfranchised sections of society even in the most difficult circumstances. Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik is a Development Economist and is currently Managing Director of PEF.