According to a recent newspaper report, a revised literacy programme for 2012-2013 has been approved by the Punjab Development Working Party. A total outlay of Rs 2.3 billion has been agreed for it for a period of four years, as against Rs 5.92 billion asked by the department. In other words, less than half of the requested amount has been sanctioned.In the Punjab province, according to a conservative estimate, close to 30 million persons are utterly illiterate. They cannot even read the number of a bus. Instead of enhancing the allocation for the literacy programme to make up for the time and opportunity lost during the previous years, if inflation is taken into consideration, there has been a net reduction in the allocation. This deficiency, along with the kind of programme taken up, is bound to adversely affect the achievement of the committed targets. In a sense, the programme looks ambitious, but, in fact, is severely inadequate. Not even half of the required literacy centres will be started. And the allocation provided could have resulted in a much larger number of literacy centres. This explains why the project provides for 40 centres in only 23 districts with none in the remaining 13. Not even in union councils where the rate of illiteracy is still quite high. A provision, however, has been made for out of school children in 30 selected unions in 35 districts.These figures are based on the press report. Despite repeated requests, the Literacy Department has not provided to this scribe the details of the expenditure to be incurred on each centre.The proposed steps need to be examined in the light of the Education For All (EFA) commitments, as well as the “Policy Actions”, specified in the 2009 National Education Policy. Four of these Policy Actions ignored in the Punjab literacy programme are: One, literacy rate shall be increased up to 86 percent by 2015 through up-scaling of the ongoing programmes of adult literacy and non-formal basic education (NFBE).Two, sustainability of adult literacy and NFE programme shall be ensured by strengthening organisational structure, coordination and enhancing budgetary allocations. Three, provinces and district governments shall allocate a minimum of 4 percent of education budget for literacy and non-formal basic education. Four, government shall develop guidelines for post-programme initiatives. Regular follow-up shall be made a part of the literacy programmes.Now a word about the administrative setup sanctioned for the implementation of the project. At the provincial level, a full-time Minister of the department has been replaced by giving additional charge to the Education Minister, who is already much too busy to find adequate time to pay attention to the matters of the Literacy Department. Secondly, most unfortunately, the post of the EDO Literacy in the districts has been abolished. And the charge of the department has been given to EDO Education, who is already overburdened with the affairs of thousands of schools and colleges and can pay only a perfunctory attention to the district literacy matters. There is another reason for EDO Education’s indifferent performance of literacy duties. The approach followed in literacy and basic schools is non-formal, while the EDO and his staff steeped as they are in formal methodologies are not conversant with or interested in non-formal ways of imparting education. The downgraded head of the district Literacy Department has to act under an otherwise very busy and often uninterested official. According to the press report, all that he has under him is a set of four literacy mobilisers. Thus, the reduced complement of one officer and a few subordinates who would be mostly away at the centres - mobilising and supervising - will hardly be able to attend to his functions even moderately satisfactorily.The EFA Global Monitoring Reports year after year have found Pakistan failing to achieve the goals agreed in the year 2000 at Dakar, Senegal. For Pakistan, the EFA and MDGs targets are 86 percent literacy and universal primary education by the year 2015: the Unesco’s office in Pakistan keeps reminding the central and provincial governments to accelerate efforts to rapidly increase the volume and quality of literacy programmes. But for their goading and persuading little might have been achieved. The Unesco has hailed the addition of Article 25-A in the Constitution after the 18th Amendment and has been exhorting and assisting the provincial governments to promulgate the enabling law to enforce the constitutional ‘Right To Education’ to every child/- boy or girl - of the age of 5 to 16. A law has since been passed in the Senate. The progress, however, in the provinces has been extremely slow, despite ITA’s successful one-million signature campaign.It may come as a bit of a shock to the readers to know that the average world literacy rate today is more than 84 percent, while we claim to have reached 58 percent. While more than five and a half crore Pakistanis cannot read or write in this day and age, initiatives are already in hand in most of the developing countries to plan ahead of 2015 to equip their populations with capabilities required to cope with new challenges and adopt diverse ways of doing things. In this connection, a most welcome development is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s new initiative: Education First: Unleashing Potential. Here are a few excerpts from the concept note of his vision: “Today, the potential of education to contribute to the world we want is at risk. As financial crises loom, there are many threats to the progress we have made. Large segments of society - particularly girls living in poverty and young people caught in humanitarian crises - have and increasingly continue to be left out…….The convening power of the Secretary General can sustain momentum to reach the MDGs and EFA goals by 2015, while at the same time set a bold course for the future of education by: 1) Raising the political profile of education and rallying together a broad spectrum of actors, 2) Spurring a global movement to bring about a paradigm shift that unleashes the potential of education to create the future we want, and 3) Generating additional and sufficient funding through sustained advocacy efforts…….To do this, Education First will focus on three priorities: (a) Unleashing the potential of those excluded: every child in school…….(b) Unleashing potential of every person: learning…….(c) Unleashing the potential of humanity: global citizenship…….“As we approach 2015, we (including the private sector and the civil society) must act as one to make global education goals a top priority. We cannot stop until every child has the opportunity to go to school, learn well, and be prepared to positively contribute to society. Together, we can unleash the potential of the human spirit through education.”Hopefully, these scintillating words of the UN Secretary General will come to the notice of the Khadm-e-Aala and Chief Secretary Punjab, and they in the light of the analysis done above will not hesitate to upscale the literacy programmes and strengthen the sinews of management of the Literacy Department.