Senate Functional Committee on Problems of Less Developed Areas in its meeting on Tuesday has condemned dropping university projects to be built in FATA and has strongly recommended that the university project initiated in Dara AdamKhel almost 7-8 years ago be taken up expeditiously. The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Muhammad Usman Kakar here at the Parliament House on Tuesday and was attended among others by Senators Mir Hasil Bizenjo, Kalsoom Parveen, Anwar Lal Deen, Khalida Parveen, Haji Momin Khan Afridi, Gianchand, senior officials from the ministry of federal education and professional training and Higher Education Commission.
The Committee was told that education is a devolved subject and land allocation and initial funding for universities has to be provided by the provincial government. The Committee observed that the federal government shouldn’t have dropped these schemes under the name of rationalisation of PSDP and decided to call ministry of planning and development in the next meeting to discuss the matter.
The committee was given details of the local and foreign scholarship and financial assistance facilities provided for students of Balochistan. It was told that 397 foreign scholarships, 4213 local scholarships, 2688 indigenous need based scholarships and 30,000 students have been given fee reimbursement while five projects are ongoing for students of Balochistan. The Committee upon earlier direction was also shared details of all these students from Balochistan along with full names, father’s names, district of domicile and CNICs to carry out an assessment whether these students are actually from Balochistan or not.
The Committee members observed that due consideration should be given to costruction of adequate number of hostels in universities across the country so that students especially girls from less developed areas can comfortable stay and study. The Committee was told that HEC has made the space and construction of hostels a mandatory requirement for every university project to be approved.
The Committee was told that classes in the Information Technology University, Muslim Bagh will begin in March. The Committee strongly recommended that projects of Livestock Univeristy, Musakhel and Forest University, Ziarat should be included in next year’s PSDP and work should be expedited as free of cost land has been provided for both the universities and temporaray building can also be provided so that classes can begin till the actuall construction is done.
While discussing the Ehsas programme launched by the government the Committee was told that so far 61,600 applications have been received under the programme for people of low income background (minimum 45,000 income) and selected students will be given monthly stipend and tuition fee waiver and no pay back will be demanded by the student upon completion of study. Out of these applications 3,799 applications are of students from Balochistan. The Committee observed that most students from Balochistan come from humble backgrounds and all of them should be accommodated even if it slightly exceeds the quota.
The Committee while discussing a number issues regarding education sector made the following recommendations.
· HEC should have regional offices in less developed areas so that students from those areas are able to get themselves aware of any and all educational and scholarship opportunities available. The provincial governments will be requested to provide land and funding for the same.
· Student unions should be restored and active participation in the political process be allowed.
· Female hostels in Balochistan University should be re-opened as early as possible.
· More medical scholarships be given by HEC to students of less developed areas.
· More people from Balochistan and ex-FATA should be given employment opportunities in HEC and universities and government ban on recruitment should be lifted.
· 265 medical scholarships should be restored as per previous criteria.
· Federal Urdu University should have sub-campuses in all provinces of the country.
· Annual reports of HEC should be regularly shared with the Committee.
The Committee also condemned curtailing the budget of HEC from 65 billion to 59 billion with an existing shortfall of 24 billion.