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Pakistan Center for Philanthropy

Prime Minister Asserts Education
Is Top Priority of Government

Associated Press of Pakistan
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Prime Minister Raza Gilani
PESHAWAR, September 8 (APP):
Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday said education was the top priority of the government and it has doubled the budget to increase country’s literacy rate.Addressing a seminar to mark the International Literacy Day here, he said “for a progressive Pakistan, we must gear up our efforts to promote literacy and education in all cross-sections of the society including women.”The seminar on ‘Literacy and Nation-Building: Approaching the Literacy Year 2010’ was organized by the National Commission for Human Development.

The Prime Minister attributed the current rise in extremism, violence, religious bigotry and falling moral standards in the failure to recognize its women as effective tools for social harmony and national reconstruction.

“So all of us must forge complete unity and join hands in making this dream a reality,” he said.

Prime Minister Gilani said the four Chief Ministers have been summoned to the federal capital to discuss the education policy on Wednesday.

He said education was a provincial government subject and the federal government desired to take on board all the four chief ministers to come up with a comprehensive policy that meets the requirements of modern times.

Gilani said the government was fully cognizant of the sacrifices of the people of NWFP and he had personally visited Peshawar to acknowledge the services of the people.

Prime Minister Gilani said terrorism and extremism were a major threat to the country and the entire nation had stood together to fight the threat.

Gilani was particularly appreciative of the millions of displaced people who left their homes, and also those who hosted them.

He announced that a special package for development of Malakand will be announced soon as poverty and illiteracy were the root causes of terrorism.

He said Swat and adjoining areas were the center of tourist attraction as the visitors from across the world came to see natural beauty of the area.

The prime minister said the terrorists challenged the writ of the government and brought a bad name to the country.

He said there was a need to dispel the wrong perception about Islam by imparting education across the country.

Gilani stressed the importance of education and quoted the great French revolutionary Dante who had said; “After bread, education.”

He said, “Literacy, for sure, is the lifeline of any developed country and there is, thus, no denial to the fact that it alone is pivotal to human progress, most important key to development, and so vital for poverty alleviation.”

The Prime Minister said Pakistan People Party government under the leadership of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto launched a national programme in the country in 1974. However, he regretted that the subsequent governments could not continue it and the programme was shelved.

He recalled that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto during her two tenures as the  Prime Minister, took important steps for the improvement of this sector and the education budget was vertically increased with special attention on female education.

Gilani said the government had declared Year 2010 as the “Literacy Year” with a focused resolve to accelerate the pace for meeting our targets. 

“With the effective resource mobilization and with the able guidance and support of all our partners, I have every reason to believe that we shall, Inshahallah achieve our goals,” the prime minister said.

He said Pakistan is signatory to the “Dakar Declaration” of 2003 to achieve 85 percent literacy rate by 2015. 

He said in the current fiscal year, the Government allocated more than 31 billion rupees for the education sector. 

“We plan to further increase this in the coming year. In this regard, I have already announced to raise the Education Budget to 4 percent of our GDP, from the existing 2.4 percent,” he added.

He said the Federal Ministry of Education has launched a scheme of establishment and operation of basic education and community schools in the country with a resource allocation of Rs 2 billion.

Another Rs. 2 billion have been earmarked under the “Education for All” programme, with an aim to providing necessary facilities at the primary schools.

He said the National Commission for Human Development has been asked to re-prioritize its goals and focus its energies in achieving the objectives of Universal National Literacy in minimum possible time.

He assured his government help to provide all the needed support and skills and hoped that under the leadership of Chairperson, Ms. Nafisa Shah, NCHD will be able to perform well.

“Here, let me also caution you that don’t forget, the challenge is enormous.  The follies of yester years have grown manifold and we need to address them on war footings,” he said.

He said Pakistan today faces numerous challenges and finds itself handicapped as it bears the burden of more than 50 million illiterate citizens. He said the existing literacy rate was about 55 percent whereas according to the National Plan of Action, it should have been 66 percent.

He pointed that the primary school enrolment was less than 70 percent and even in this, as many as 30 percent get dropped out before acquiring basic literacy skills.

No civilized society can afford this sorry state of affairs and no nation can break the shackles of poverty and disease by remaining illiterate and ignorant.

The prime minister said Islam makes it mandatory on its believers for every endeavour to seek knowledge as it regards the seeking of knowledge a sacred duty for all followers.

“Thus no believer of Islam can be the enemy of knowledge and no Muslim can, therefore, dare destroying a seat of learning,” he added.

Gilani said the recent incidents of burning of girls schools in terrorism affected areas, especially in the Malakand Division, clearly indicate that the forces behind such heinous acts are not the saviours but the enemies of Islam. 

“They are the enemies of a peaceful and dynamic religion that creates no difference between a woman and a man when it comes to seeking education and knowledge,” he added.

Gilani invited international donor friends, philanthropists and other organizations to join hands with the government.

“Let us rebuild the Swat schools; Let us rebuild Pakistan.”

He reiterated the priority of government to provide maximum resource allocation for the rebuilding of the girls’ schools and colleges, which were the worst hit.

“We must not forget that literate mothers raise literate children and so one of the most effective ways to dent illiteracy in society is to educate mothers. Societies, which fail to educate women, condemn their children to a vicious cycle of ignorance and poverty, he added.

He said NCHD is the lead agency for literacy in Pakistan, which has been recognized by UNESCO. This national forum needs our combined efforts.

“I will ensure that NCHD gets the timely release of the required and approved funds of Rs. 2.7 billion during the current financial year.”

He urged the Federal Education Minister and all the four provincial governments to lend complete support to this national body and work out a coordinated mechanism for ensuring universal literacy in minimum possible time.

Earlier Prime Minister Gilani inaugurated the literacy center.

The function was attended by Chief Minister NWFP Ameer Haider

Khan Hoti, Minister for States and Frontier Region Najam-ud-Din Khan, Minister of State for Education Ghulam Farid Kathia, Chairperson National Commission for Human Development Ms. Nafisa Shah, parliamentarians and officials of the federal and provincial governments.




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