The provision of education services in Pakistan is mediocre at best, and in most cases dire. There are many children of school going age who do not have access to viable schooling, and in many cases even those who do have access to schooling are not receiving the standard of education they should be.
This is an issue that has often been sidelined by successive Pakistani governments who tend to be more focused on being crisis-responsive rather than proactive in building longer-term structures to support public education. The situation has been steadily worsening, and a group called Alif Ailaan has had enough and has declared an education emergency.
Alif Ailaan believes that Pakistan’s future rests on the provision of effective education systems that will form the foundation on which today’s youth can prosper and take the country forward.
They explain this on their website, stating: “we seek to explain the importance of universal education and the opportunity it presents for Pakistan’s future success” and that they intend to do this by leading “a national conversation on fixing education and, with the input of our partners and the research and evidence that we produce, we set out the steps we believe need to be taken to achieve positive change.”
Alif Ailaan has come up with a Declaration that it believes will improve the current education crisis that Pakistan is facing.
There are a total of ten points, and these are:
“Every child in Pakistan has the basic right to a safe, free and well-funded education; No child’s learning must be prevented by a lack of proper facilities; Every candidate must announce his or her detailed plans for education before the election; Parents must send all of their children – boys and girls – to school; Provincial Education Ministers must publish an Action Plan for implementing Article 25a – the constitutional entitlement to free education for all children from 5-16; Teachers must be appointed on ability, not patronage, and should be well trained and supported to do their crucial job; Parents must support their children’s learning and talk with their children every day about what they learn; Teachers must be present to teach every school day Only those who contribute to educating our young people should be rewarded accordingly; New governments must find cross-party consensus to act on the Education Emergency in the first 100 days after the election; We are ALL accountable for making this change happen in 2013.”
Leadership at Alif Ailaan
Given the fact that education is a universal right, this alliance seeks to mobilise people in Pakistan to demand this right and to actively seek solutions to the country’s education emergency.
Alif Ailaan is a coalition of various organizations who believe in the cause, though there is an understanding that real change can only occur if people at all levels of society are mobilised. Their website states: “Action is required by our political leaders, but also by our teachers, by our government officials, by parents and by all Pakistan’s citizens who can help get more of our children into school and learning well.”
This movement is based in Islamabad in Pakistan, and is spearheaded by Mosharraf Zaidi (@mosharrafzaidi), a consultant with various government and international organizations. He is the Campaign Director for Alif Ailaan, and the UK Department of International Development funds this alliance.
The alliance has been working on holding events, particularly with politicians, in order to involve them in this campaign and spur them to take further steps to promote better education reform.
It also produced a report in 2013 in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on education rankings according to district. The report shows unequal standards in terms of both quality of education and facilities available for schooling. This report is a crucial first step since it shows what the situation is in various parts of the country and what needs to be done, and also can be a means for measuring progress in coming years.
Earlier this month, Alif Ailaan held an event called disruptED, a conversation about the state of education and ways to move forward. In addition to this, it most recently held an enrolment drive all cross various cities in Pakistan, to encourage higher rates of attendance and enrolment.
This alliance has received support from all over Pakistan, and this enthusiasm is growing.
The News quoted Mosharraf Zaidi on this public support:
“Together with our partners we’ve experienced the enthusiasm and zeal of Pakistanis to put education at the front and centre of public discourse in Pakistan. The journey has been inspiring and eye opening. We have had the privilege of working with dedicated education champions-people and organisations striving against all odds to ensure that every Pakistani child is in school, learning and growing.”