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PILER condemns Prime Minister’s statement on nationalization of education in Pakistan

by PILER, 1 November 2010

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Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER),
- Gulshan e Maymar, Karachi 75340, Pakistan


PILER condemns PM’s statement on nationalization of education

Says PM statement contradicts 18th amendment; amounts to denying the right to education for all; is an insult to millions of children excluded from the education system because of poor governance

Karachi, Oct. 31, 2010: Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) has expressed shock and disappointment at the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s statement in Lahore yesterday terming the policy of nationalization of education undertaken in 1970s as "wrong and mistake".

"The statement comes from the elected Prime Minster of a country that has one of the lowest spending on education in the world at 1.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The sentiments expressed by Mr. Gilani are appalling and completely out of sync with the Constitution as well as his position as democratically elected Prime Minister of the country, whose job it is to protect the interests of the people of the country," said a statement released by PILER on Sunday, following PM’s remarks that appeared in the press today.

Taking exception to the Mr. Gilani’s remarks about the poor quality of education at government schools, the PILER office said that quality of education is no excuse for handing over the responsibility of education to the private sector that makes education inaccessible to the large section of the population. Pakistan has the lowest net enrollment ratio of the 0.65 in South Asia. Thirty percent of all those enrolled in primary schools have no prospects of making it to grade five. The population of age group 10-12 years is approximately 27 million out of which over 21 million are out of schools. Pakistan has the highest school dropout ratio in the region. The country which has been labeled by international bodies as one of the most illiterate nations in Asia will certainly not benefit in any way if the state abdicates its duty of providing basic facilities to its citizens, including education and health.

The PILER statement pointed out that the much celebrated amendment in the Constitution, the 18th Amendment has gone on to add the provision for free education in the Constitution. The Article 25, which pertains to the right to equality of all citizens, clearly outlines right to education for all in Section A: "The State shall provide free education to all children of age 5 to 16 years in such a manner as may be determined by law." The Prime Minister has some explaining to do if he thinks that the state has no role in providing education to children, since his statement actually contradicts the Constitution.

The PILER Office further said that the PM’s statement is an insult to 10 million children engaged in child labour and millions of others who are excluded from the education system because of inefficiencies of the government. "While these children continue to pay the price for state’s failures, the state has the audacity to tell them it has no responsibility whatsoever toward their welfare and future."

PILER pointed out that the PM’s recent expressions may be his own personal thoughts, but he has no mandate to impose that on the nation till required amendments are made in the Constitution. "After the 18th Amendment, the Constitution officially recognizes right to free and compulsory education for all citizens and there is no way to provide that except through the state education system. One cannot expect private enterprises to provide free education to children. If the PM is keen to pursue the interest of commercial education enterprises, he will have to take a Constitutional route and propose necessary amendments in the Constitution before the house of elected representatives and seek their approval. The 1970s policy of nationalization was carried out by an elected leadership through the mandate of the public. General Ziaul Haq, a dictator reversed the policy, violating the Constitution by launching a denationalization drive. This is typical of a dictator, who treated Constitution as nothing more than a piece of paper. However, Mr. Gilani is democratically elected PM and is answerable to the nation on why he thinks the state should not uphold the right to education of its citizens."

PILER also condemned Sindh Government’s recent announcement to shut down 1100 schools run by the state terming them "non-viable" and "non-feasible." "The state under the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party led coalition government is pursing a very exclusionary and unreasonable policy indicating that it is here to promote the interests of a select section of the population only. We at PILER strongly condemn this move and we will take it up at relevant platforms since this amounts to denying a fundamental constitutional right to a large section of the public."