Experts seek revision in Right to Free Education Act 2011 | Pakistan Today

Experts seek revision in Right to Free Education Act 2011

The participants of a meeting have demanded the revision of the `Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2011′ to maximize the required prospects and safeguarding the future of the young generation of Pakistan.
Academic experts hailing from different government, semi-government and private institutions while discussing the education act, already passed by the Senate, said that the penalties mentioned in the act were not clear and it should be explicitly stated whether the penalty would be criminal or civil.
They also asked for clarifying which procedure should be followed once a penalty was imposed, officials from the Ministry of Human Rights told agencies on Sunday.
They said instead of using only the term “he” in the act when referring to a child, it was more appropriate to use “he/she” to be more gender sensitive in this regard.
This simple change would go a long way in ensuring that girls were also allowed to reap the benefits from this act, said the officials.
They added that it was necessary to make sure that children knew their rights and were aware of their entitlement to free and compulsory education.
The participants of the meeting said that the act should make clear provisions for what was to be done in case of emergencies such as floods, earthquakes and other disasters, while adding that displaced children must be accommodated elsewhere to avoid a break in their education.
During the detailed discussion on the bill, the participating members said that Section 1 (3) of the Act read, “It shall come into force on such date and in such areas”.
Commenting on this point, the participants agreed that the use of the word `areas’ was too vague and left the areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) undefined.
The participants stated that the areas in which the law held the most importance should be defined more clearly in the Act.
Section 2 (a) (ii) read “a school established, owned, or controlled by the Local Government”. Here the participants were of the opinion that other authorities designated by the Constitution to act in place of the local government should be also mentioned for the sake of clarity.
Section 2 (d) addressed the parents “whose annual income is lower than the minimum limit specified by the appropriate government”. The participants agreed that further clarity was required as to what exactly was the amount that “minimum limit’ indicated in this particular section. This was necessary as otherwise ambiguity may rise as to whether this referred to the poverty levels, minimum wage levels etc, they added.
Section 2 (g) read “Free education means education free of any education related costs including expenditure on stationery, school bags and transport.” The participants felt that this section should include whether or not uniforms would be provided as well, as it amounted to a significant cost for the low income households.
Section 2 (k) outlined the definitions of “school” in the Act. The participants agreed that in this case the term “school” had the potential to be restrictive. It would be preferable to replace it with a more all-encompassing phrase like “educational institutes” to include religious seminaries and other such institutions.
Section 3 (3) (j) read that the government was obligated to “provide all training facilities for teachers and students.” Here it should be added that all training facilities must conform to the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Section 5 (3) mentioned the “service rules” which schools had to adhere to. The participants said that while the service rules were in place for the public sector, there was no corresponding set of rules for the private sector.
There must be more clarity on what rules would apply to private schools, religious seminaries etc.
The participants agreed that the use of the terms “formal and non-formal education” in the Act were beneficial as it effectively covered a situation where a child too old to be enrolled in a formal system still had a right to education in a different system.
Officials of the National Commission for Human Development, the Ministry of Education and Training, National Commission for Child Welfare and Development, the Ministry of Human Rights, United Nations Children Fund, OXFAM, Sahil, SPAARC, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi and other organizations attended the meeting.

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