International Literacy Day was celebrated on Wednesday 8th September, 2021 in Punjab. Provincial Minister Literacy& Non Formal Basic Education Raja Rashid Hafeez was the Chief Guest of this event. The events of the day opened with an inaugural speech by the Minister, Literacy and NFBE highlighting the importance of literacy and education, the interventions and achievements of the government in achieving the objectives of literacy and education and the activities of the department in this area. The Minister while highlighting the achievements of the department informed that 13,519 Non-Formal Schools were run by department with an enrollment of 434,479 children and adolescents. The highest number of enrollment was registered in 2019 under the present government. The department had imparted adult literacy since its inception to 2,778,157 Adult Illiterates. Under the present government the period of adult literacy classes was enhanced to 6 months and the curriculum was upgraded and diversified in order to make the course more robust and to attract greater number of learners. The department, with the support of JICA had recently introduced a 32 month Katchi to primary course in order to attract enrollment and retention of children and adolescents who were overage for the grade that they needed to be enrolled in. The department with the assistance of UNICEF had started early childhood education model of teaching and learning in selected schools. In order to increase its outreach, ownership among stakeholders and improve quality of education the department had started a Friends of Literacy Programme through which the support of individuals and organizations was enlisted in order to achieve the department’s targets. Another flagship project of the present government was the ILM-O-HUNAR Project whereby literacy and skills provision were integrated. The department had constructed rooms, with the aid of the International NGO ALIGHT for those areas where no facility was available to establish schools within any building focusing initially on the tribal belt of DG Khan as there the houses are mostly of thatched material and very small, so children cannot be accommodated there as most schools are run from one house of the teacher’s house. The department caters to a vast range of communities which because of their particular circumstances have not been able to avail education from the formal sector. These include children in workforce, slum dwellers, internally displaced persons, madrassah children, minorities, jail inmates, Dar-ul-Aman residents and Transgenders.
Another great achievement of the government has been that the department is now going to have a permanent Directorate General for Literacy & NFBE. Since its inception in 2002 the department had been working in project mode. This had greatly constrained the work of the department and compromised consistency. Realizing the importance of the work of the department and its role in reaching out to the poor and marginalized communities 1007 project posts have been converted to regular posts. Thus, the department following the vision of the Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan and under the leadership of the Chief Minister Punjab, Mr. Usman Buzdar is poised to make greater and greater contribution to the cause of literacy, education and human capital development. This was followed by an online panel discussion regarding “Quality Education for non-formal schools and adult literacy centres and integration of the formal and non-formal education provided by public, private and NGO sectors including skills provision and life-long learning.” The panelists included eminent experts from the public, non-governmental and private sector. Ms. Baela Raza Jamil, CEO , Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi was the moderator for the discussion and the panel consisted of Mian Imran Masood, President, Pakistan Education Council, Mian Riza ur Rehman, President, Serving Schools Foundation, Nayab Ali, Transgender Rights Expert (Peace & Justice Network Pakistan) for Akhuwat Foundation, Mr. Shahbaz Hussain, Director Technical (NAVTTC), Dr. Tariq Habib Cheema, Country Representative Alight Pakistan, Ms. Huma Mirza, Representative Akhuwat Foundation, Ms. Chiho Ohashi, Chief Advisor, AQAL Project JICA Pakistan, Mr. Bashir Ahmad Zahid Goraya Additional Secretary Literacy & NFBE Department, Schools Education Department, Planning and Development Department and Literacy & Non-Formal Basic Education Department. All participants provided valuable input based on their experience, there was a rich discussion and the need for collaboration to achieve the target of universal education was stressed. This was followed by a question/answer session. The department had earlier organized a painting competition among the students of its schools on the theme of the importance of literacy. In this competition the first three positions were taken by Adan, (Grade-4) district Sialkot, Amina Zaman (Grade 5) district Okara and Dua Fatima (Grade-5) district Rajanpur respectively. Prize distribution ceremony was held at their concerned districts where prizes, and certificates were given to winners. The department also acknowledged the hard work of its teachers by presenting prizes to the top three teachers of the province. At the same time the stories of the students who had graduated from the schools of the department and had gone on to pursue higher studies and successful careers were highlighted in order to pay tribute to those former students and to motivate others to follow their example. The event was concluded with the remarks of the Secretary, Literacy and non-formal Basic Education department. She thanked the participants of the panel discussion for their valuable input and said that that the discussion would help in shaping policies and interventions of the department. She stressed the importance of collaboration among all stakeholders to achieve the target of universal literacy and the objective of article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan which promises free and compulsory education from the age of 5 to 16 years. The Secretary thanked the department’s partners UNICEF, JICA and ALIGHT for providing assistance for the celebration of the International Literacy Day 2021, and for their support to the department. She lauded the efforts of the Minister for Literacy and NFB Education, Raja Rashid Hafeez in taking the department to a higher level of performance and service delivery under the leadership of the Chief Minister, Mr. Usman Buzdar and the Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan. The event was successfully conducted with strict reinforcement of COVID SOPs and underscoring the need to celebrate an important day like the International Literacy Day.