The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday directed the federal and provincial governments to submit education statistics to validate their claims of improvement in education sector.

Heading a three-member bench,  Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa remarked, “We will question where the government schools, which used to be run in every locality, have gone and if they come up with tall claims, the court will order carrying out an inspection to verify their assertions.”

The SC bench was conducting hearing into numerous cases related to the status of education institutions in the country, along with an increase in tuition fees by private education institutes. This observation was made when Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Advocate General Abdul Latif Yousafzai informed the bench that the province would present a brief statement on education.

Earlier on April 9, the apex court had ordered the federal and provincial governments to provide complete details pertaining to the provision of education for children under the Article 25-A of the Constitution. “We keep education very close to our heart since there is nothing without knowledge,” the chief justice commented.

The CJP said in the olden days, roads used to be in a bad order and the buses plying them also used to be disorderly, however,  the passengers that travelled in those buses were cultured. But the situation had changed now, as roads had become metaled but people travelling upon them had turned into Abu Jahl.

Stating an example from his personal life, the CJP said that he completed his early education from government schools and colleges and later went abroad to study at the prestigious Cambridge University and Lincoln’s Inn. However, he faced no issues in coping with this change because the education he received in the government institutions was of top quality, he added. “Absence of good quality public-sector education system means a child from an ordinary family, no matter how brilliant or sharp, will have no chance to stand out,” he added.

Earlier, senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui, representative of parents said that Article 25-A not only stressed upon the provision of free and compulsory education for children but also referred to the regulation of private education institutes. He said education with respect to the economic background of the backward class was also one of the key responsibilities of the state, ensured by this constitutional provision as well.

He said Article 11(3) of the Constitution gave central pertinence to women and children, however, children in the present times were facing an arbitrary increase in their school fees. Parents had no issues with private schools generating profits or money but had objections with exploitation and profiteering, he added.

During the hearing, the chief justice also commented about an Indian court that held education must not be administered on the same lines to that of business and hence schools should curtail the principles of profiteering.

Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, a member of the three-judge bench hearing the case, said: “If we remove private sector education from the current equation, it would mean there is no education, as the public sector education is nowhere to be seen.” He added the priorities were not right as far as education and health were concerned.

Justice Faisal Arab, another member of the bench, said the state was obligated to provide free and compulsory education to children under Article 25-A of the Constitution, however, it had never been considered.

The case will be taken up again on Wednesday.

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