A plea to participate

Mosharraf Zaidi

When we launched the Alif Ailaan campaign in February 2013, we were in a rush to make sure we were able to make an impression on the May 2013 election. The very fact that we had a campaign for education represented the culmination of many people’s efforts to establish the primacy of domestic political will as the most potent arbiter of human development outcomes. We wanted to make sure we started off well.

The conviction that political will is the most fundamental ingredient of any kind of reform was based on years of research and deliberation, in particular by researchers and thinkers such as Graham Teskey, and articulated to varying degrees in both (UK) DFID’s international development white papers three and four. More importantly from a Pakistani perspective, political will for reform had proven to be a powerful driver for changes to the Constitution (widely referred to as the 18thAmendment), and changes to the equilibrium between executive, judicial and military power between 2006 and 2009.

If the state of education in Pakistan was to improve, it would require the establishment of narratives that enjoyed potency in the political discourse. The first thing we did was to try to establish a means of judging the progress of our campaign for education reforms. We settled on two overarching metrics: first, the quantum of education coverage in the print media, and second, the establishment of a new norm in the mainstream discourse.

In February 2013, there were, on average, less than thirty stories a week on education in the top five English and top three Urdu newspapers in the country. More importantly, there was no widely agreed definition or metric for the denial of a child’s right to an education. Neither the federal, nor the provincial governments measured the quantum of out of school children. The estimates that did exist were based on varying definitions of the primary school cohort.

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By February 2015, there were over 200 education stories a week in the top five English and top three Urdu newspapers. More importantly, the figure of 25 million out of school children had been established as one of the most oft-cited figures in the political discourse, with both government and opposition leaders expressing outrage at the number, and committing to do something about it. In 2016 the official government education statistics added a chapter on out of school children—based on the Constitutional right of all five to sixteen year olds to an education.

The May 2013 election came and went, but the conversation we wanted to ingrain in the Pakistani political discourse took almost two years to take shape.

As we approach the 2018 election, we have had the benefit of over five years of campaigning. Education is not the hill on which Pakistan’s leaders live and die—but it is certainly a more important part of the political discourse than it was during the previous election.

The Alif Ailaan campaign will end on August 31, but before it hands over the reins of campaigning for education to the thousands of activists, scholars, politicians and journalists that make change happen every day—Alif Ailaan needs one last act of support for education from its most important supporters: YOU!

The weeks preceding the 2018 election are yet another golden chance to establish the state of education as a key issue in the political contests in each of the country’s 272 national assembly constituencies.

The Taleem Do! app and platform have been prepared to help citizens across the country raise their voices for a better education, for every single child, in every constituency, across every province, no matter how wealthy the child’s family is.

Use the app and submit videos, photos, essays and reports to the Taleem Do! platform. InshaAllah, we promise to do what we have always done through your incredible support and your prayers: to make sure that our voice is heard.

Mosharraf Zaidi is Campaign Director, Alif Ailaan


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