- Pakistan’s UN envoy says provision of right to education awaits implementation
Pakistan’s Ambassador to United Nations Maleeha Lodhi told a packed hall of overseas Pakistanis here in the British capital that education was a great challenge in Pakistan but it was also an opportunity.
Speaking at the annual gala dinner celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the UK chapter of DIL (Developments in Literacy) – a non-profit body that is educating thousands of underprivileged children, she said that the right to education was enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution but that provision awaited to be fully implemented.
She said that the girls still did not have equal access to education, which was a constitutional obligation and equally an obligation of “our faith and our spiritual traditions.” The event titled, Unlocking the Future of Our Stars, was organised by The Trustees and Benefit Committee of DIL at the Madame Tussauds Museum.
Ambassador Maleeha said that the role of women was stressed in the clearest of terms by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah. “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless its women are side by side with men,” she quoted famous statement of the father of the Pakistani nation. This was reason enough to fight for girls’ education, she said.
“To campaign for education for every girl was to fight for the country’s future,” she said, adding that Pakistan could not move forward if half its population was held back. She said there was no shortage of hunger for knowledge and education for girls by their parents.
“Parents and daughters, all across the country, are desperate to empower themselves, their families and their communities by the light of education. Parents and their girls walk for miles to get to a school. They brave poor teachers. They brave the extreme cold and the extreme heat. They will go to any lengths to get access to schools,” she added.
As for the least privileged parents and girls, she said that they had shown over and over again that they walk the talk and that they had taken bullets for their right to be educated. The ambassador told the audience that this was epitomised by Pakistan’s Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yusufzai who exposed the moral crisis of girls’ education. “She (Malala) took a bullet as a symbol of the non-negotiable right to education and sent the most powerful signal that this is an urgent need for every girl and for all times,” she said.
The envoy praised the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for making progress in this regard as the latest statistics showed that the number of out of school children had fallen by three million in the past three years. Another step taken by the government that inspired hope was that in January this year the prime minister took a pledge to give math and science education the attention it clearly merits.
“The case of educating girls due to the returns received was also emphasised,” she said. She also said that the challenge was a big one and of course much more needed to be done especially as 22 million children of the school-going age still did not have access to a school. She paid rich tribute to the pioneers and supporters of DIL whom she described as being ahead of the game by taking education to the most marginalised children and youth and training local teachers to build community resilience.
She said that DIL and similar non-profits should pat themselves on the back for inspiring conversations around education, including in the media, conversations that have helped to keep the issue high on the public agenda.