Pakistan launches education programme for 3 mn kids



Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari along with UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown on Friday launched a programme aimed at enrolling three million Pakistani children in school over the next four years.

The 'Waseela-e-Taleem' initiative was launched at a ceremony held at the presidency.

Zardari said the initiative is aimed at providing free education to the poorest children and will be part of the Benazir Income Support Programme, a flagship programme for poverty alleviation and women's empowerment.

The programme is not merely about cash grants as it aims to help the poorest of the poor stand on their feet, he said.

"It teaches them how to catch a fish...We are committed to achieve universal primary education," he added.

Following a recent constitutional amendment, education is now included in the fundamental rights of citizens as no country can make progress without investing in its human capital, Zardari said.

Poverty and ignorance also fuel militancy and extremism, he pointed out. "We must fight against ignorance to fight poverty and militancy," the President said.

He appreciated the support provided for the poverty alleviation initiative by international development partners like DFID, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, USAID and the governments of Britain, China and Turkey.

Earlier, Brown presented a petition with more than a million signatures in support of teenage rights campaigner Malala Yousufzai to the Pakistan government.

Malala is currently being treated in a Birmingham hospital after being shot in the head by the Taliban in the northwestern Swat Valley for advocating girls' education.

In a separate meeting with Brown, Zardari too signed the petition and said his government is according "high priority" to promoting education, especially in militancy-hit areas, as a tool to fight the "militant mindset" in the long term.

He said the need for education had never been greater as it holds the key to countering extremism and militancy and ensuring socio-economic uplift.

"Militant mindset is our biggest collective enemy," he said.

Zardari sought enhanced support and cooperation from the UN and world community in the education sector and for achieving the Accelerated Millennium Development Goals.

Former British premier Brown briefed Zardari about the objectives of the UN initiative "Education First" and said his mission in Pakistan is aimed at ensuring greater enrolment, provision of quality education, training of teachers and promotion of education technology.

PTI