ISLAMABAD, Oct 21: The government informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it was still undecided about closing 15,101 basic education community schools, imparting informal education among 561,000 students enrolled across the country.
“A final decision has yet to be taken and the prime minister has constituted a high-powered cabinet committee to look into the matter after provincial governments` reluctance to accept the project,” Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told a three-judge bench.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Tariq Parvez had taken up a petition moved by F. Hussain highlighting the closure of the non-formal education project entitled “Establishment and Operation of Basic Education Community Schools”.
At the last hearing on Oct 11, the government had asked the chief secretaries and advocates general of the four provinces to justify the closing of the project. After the passage of 18th amendment of the Constitution, matters relating to the community schools have been devolved to the provinces.
On Thursday, the attorney general sought time till Friday to answer why the government was not paying salary to the staff of the schools if it was still undecided about the project.
The chief justice observed that it was a constitutional obligation of the government to allocate budget for education so that students could continue their studies. The government should focus on educational institutions since a majority of the people depended on government-run schools. Everybody could not afford private institutions, he said.
Justice Khilji said the private education sector had become an industry.
Federal Board of Revenue chairman Salman Siddique informed the court that Rs66 billion had been collected under the Iqra Education Surcharge between 1984 and 1994. He sought time to provide details of expenditures.
The court said it wanted to know how the amount collected for development of the education sector was spent. “It is like petroleum development levy. You are taking from consumers for development purposes though the prices of petroleum products keep on increasing,” the court observed.
Project director Sadia said the scheme was a brainchild of the education ministry in 1995, and the then government in 1998 had decided to increase the number of schools from 10,000 to 68,000. And when it decided to close down the project, it prepared a PC-1 and presented it before the then prime minister.
Makhdoom Ali Khan, the former attorney general who appeared before the court as amicus curiae, said the NCHD and National Education Commission were subject of federal legislature and these could not be laid down in such a manner. Under Article 270AA, the subject was protected.
Additional advocate general of Punjab informed the court that under the 18th amendment, the project had been handed over to the provinces, and under Article 25A, imparting education was a state responsibility.Dawn.