Emphasizing the need for sufficient allocation of the annual budget for girls’ education to bridge the gap, the education experts have discussed and suggested the Punjab government’s essential steps for better governance and increased financing in the education sector.
The leading education experts put forward the recommendations and concerns during a pre-budget consultation meeting in Punjab, focusing on Girl’s Education, organized by the Awaz CDS Pakistan in collaboration with Education Champions Network Pakistan and Pakistan Coalition for Education. The purpose was to enable practitioners and experts to share their recommendations for the budget allocation at the provincial level and become a part of the budget-making process.
The pre-budget consultative meeting brought together government officials, experts, civil society representatives, prominent academics to input the upcoming Punjab provincial budget 2022-23.
The panelists included Economist University of Central Punjab Lahore, Prof. Dr. Qais Aslam, CEO of Rah-Center for Management and Development, Fauzia Viqar, Additional Secretary (Budget & Planning) School Education Department Punjab, Qaiser Rashid, Director General (Parliamentary Affairs & Research) Provincial Assembly of the Punjab Inayat Ullah Lak, MPA Punjab Assembly and Chairperson Standing Committee on Gender Mainstreaming, Uzma Kardar.
Starting the session, CEO Awaz CDS Pakistan, Mohammad Zia your Rehman, said that we should enhance departments’ capacities at the district level to utilize and report the budgets efficiently. He also advocated notifying and implementing Punjab’s free and compulsory education Act.
Zehra Arshad, Executive Director Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE), emphasized the need to put extra efforts in the education sector from allocations to spending, especially in times of post-Covid situation where the number of OOSC has already been exacerbated.
Marium Amjad Khan-Campaign Manager-AwazCDS-Pakistan presented the recommendations prepared by Education Champion Network on the education sector in Punjab. She highlighted the steps that need to be taken to increase girls’ enrolment and their retention in schools. Some of the critical recommendations focused on awareness-raising the importance of girls’ education, ensuring safe access to and a safe environment, investing in teachers’ training, introducing innovations in the field of education, and making the education system shock/emergency resilient.
Ayesha Iqbal, MPA Punjab Assembly, suggested taking all PEIMA and PEF schools under one umbrella to minimize the expenses on bureaucracy and other unnecessary expenditures. She added that it would also help in making systems accountable.
Ms. Uzma Kardar, MPA Punjab Assembly and Chairperson Standing Committee on Gender Mainstreaming expressed that planning budgets from a gender lens is essential, but while budgeting, it is also necessary to synchronize it with SDGs 4 targets; each target will share how much investment is required. She appreciated the concept of Insaaf Afternoon Schools and suggested “Girls Friendly Toilets.”
Dr. Qais Aslam, Economist University of Central Punjab Lahore, suggested Government should build more schools at all levels with modern facilities and upgrade existing schools from primary to high schools. He emphasized that textbooks should encourage research-based gender-sensitive, environmentally sensitive, and productivity-orientated knowledge.
Qaisar Rashid, Additional Secretary (Budget & Planning) School Education Department Punjab, stressed the importance of quality education and shared that the Government is serious about STEM education. The Ed-tech policy is also approved, which will help us train our teachers on blended learning.
Many participants, including representatives from different NGOs, media organizations, academia, schools councils, lawyers, and youth, also shared their opinions and inputs during an open session.
Fauzia Viqar, CEO of Rah-Center for Management and Development, concluded the session and suggested that the role of parliamentarians is vital. They should be given ample time to review and debate budgets. She also said that GIS mapping should be introduced in all private schools to make teachers accountable and avoid GHOST schools. She further recommended that the number of special education schools is increased and reasonable budgets should be allocated.