Not putting school-aged children in schools to become a punishable offence for parents
The government of Punjab has prepared a new Punjab School Truancy Act to ensure the enrolment of out-of-school children in public educational institutions across the province.
There are close to 23 million children aged between 5 and 16 that remain out of school across Pakistan and repeated attempts to get them back to schools have failed at various instances. The abysmal situation for this massive number of children being out of school is partly due to the fact that parents who fail to put their kids into schools get away with the criminal carelessness without repercussions. In the first world, children missing school without purpose has become an offence that parents get fined and even jailed for.
Children’s education and their attendance in school, therefore, has become a crucial responsibility of parents, unlike that of teachers as practiced in Pakistan. Most of the enrolment campaigns in Pakistan fail because teachers are made to conduct door-to-door enrolment campaigns to register children that are out of school. However, there is no way to either ensure that children attend school or force parents to actually send the children to school. Hence, the failed campaigns.
Following in the West’s footsteps, the provincial government is now mulling introducing a school truancy law that will carry severe consequences for parents who deny children the right to education for one reason or the other. The Punjab government is planning to get the school truancy act passed from provincial assembly and implement it with effect from January 1, 2018.
Instead of the practice of holding teachers accountable for enrolment in schools, the new act has stated that teachers’ job was only to educate children and the responsibility of enrolment rested with the government and the parents.
It proposes that it will be parents’ responsibility to ensure enrolment of children aged five and above in schools, while the government would provide education, free books, uniforms, school boxes etc to the students.
According to the proposed act school truancy would be a punishable offence and parents of children who do not enter schools would be punished accordingly by the competent authority. They would lose out on several of the benefits and schemes that the government plans to implement across Punjab in the coming days. Such parents would not be eligible to get financial assistance from Baitul Maal or the Zakat department and nor would they receive any other sustenance.
Such parents would also not be included in government’s Sasta Ghar Scheme and would also not be allowed to avail free medical treatment at under the government’s health card scheme.
Parents of children in rural areas who get kids enrolled would be provided monthly financial assistance. According to plans, the data of children will be collected through NADRA and monitored for school enrolments regularly. Parents who would have failed to put their children in schools would be declared offenders and punished.
If executed in letter and spirit, the initiative could prove a game-changer for the fate of millions of out-of-school children in Pakistan. Making parents responsible for the schooling of children per law will go long way in addressing this malaise that has plagued our education system for decades. More power to the government!