ISLAMABAD - This year more than 2.7 million children in the Punjab will turn 5. Of these children, about one million will never go to school, while more than half the girls (54 per cent) and nearly half the boys (46 per cent) who are currently enrolled will drop out within the next five years, failing even to complete primary school.

Alif Ailaan, a campaign that seeks to put education at the front and centre of public discourse in Pakistan, supports efforts to increase enrolment in the Punjab. The enrolment emergency announced by the provincial government is an important initiative by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and is an example of the kinds of measures needed to end Pakistan's education emergency.

The Alif Ailaan Taleemi Karavan will head out from Islamabad on Monday morning and travel 1,578 km through 14 districts of the Punjab. It will spread the word about every Pakistani child's right to a free education and the importance of putting children in school.

A convoy of five decorated vehicles will drive to the districts of Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Gujranwala, Lahore, Okara, Chiniot, Faisalabad, Jhang, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur before returning to Islamabad. The Taleemi Karavan will stop in key towns and cities along the GT Road, where Alif Ailaan partners and network coordinators will engage with parents, children, teachers, lawyers, journalists, local politicians and community notables.

"The mid-year enrolment season is critical because it allows children to be enrolled who may otherwise not be brought into the education system. Each child out of school is an opportunity missed," said Mosharraf Zaidi, Alif Ailaan Team Leader. "The Alif Ailaan Taleemi Karavan will not only create awareness about the Constitutional right to education but will also provide practical information to facilitate enrolment, so that willingness can be converted into action."

"We look forward to taking the message of education to communities," said Imran Khan, Civil Society Manager, Alif Ailaan. "The support that has already been promised is overwhelming. It is going to be an interesting journey and we especially look forward to support from politicians. They have a crucial role to play when it comes to ensuring that every child goes to school."

Currently net enrolment in the Punjab stands at 64 per cent. At this rate it will be 2041 before every child in the province is in school. Pakistan faces an education emergency. The time to end it is now.