Pak parl passes bill to ensure free education to all

Pakistan's parliament today passed a bill to ensure free and compulsory education to all children aged between five and 16 years as enshrined in the Constitution.

The National Assembly or lower house of parliament unanimously passed the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill 2012. The private member's bill, piloted by Pakistan People's Party lawmaker Yasmeen Rehman, was earlier passed by the Senate or upper house of parliament.

Article 25A of the Constitution states free education for all children aged five to 16 is a fundamental right and its provision is a responsibility of the state. The comprehensive law states that free and compulsory education is the need of the hour.

The bill states children will be provided free education in schools established by the federal government and the local government in the Islamabad Capital Territory. Under the bill, every child, regardless of sex, nationality or race, will have a fundamental right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.

No school can be established without obtaining a certificate of registration from the prescribed authority. Any person who establishes or runs a school without obtaining this certificate will be liable to pay of fine of up to Rs 200,000.

In case of continuing contraventions, a fine of Rs 25,000 will have to be paid for each day. Speaking in the House, Yasmeen Rehman said free and compulsory education is a fundamental right of every child.

Lawmaker Azra Fazal Pechuho, the sister of President Asif Ali Zardari, congratulated Rehman and said the bill will remove a sense of deprivation among the poor and ensure quality education.

Other lawmakers said at least 4.5 per cent of the GDP should be allocated for education. They pointed out that under the bill, private education institutions will be bound to reserve 10 per cent of seats for poor children.

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