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Terrorism effects on education sector

Terrorism takes its toll on education sector
Lahore, Dec 23: During the year 2009, terrorism overshadowed all the sectors especially education which was the worst hit by militancy.

Hundreds of schools were blown up in Fata and the NWFP regions while most horrible incident was twin suicide attacks on the International Islamic University, Islamabad, which claimed lives of six innocent people, including three female students, in October.

The tragic incident spread a wave of panic and subsequently educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities, had to face closure across the country for over one week. It also led to a massive exercise regarding implementation of maximum security arrangements at educational institutions and a controversy also surfaced when private schools demanded the government ensure security for institutions in private sector.

The deteriorating law and order situation also caused cancellation of various education-related events which, otherwise, were happening on a regular basis.

Nonetheless, the situation also gave birth to some innovative ideas of teaching and learning. A number of private schools introduced e-learning software in a bid to cover the academic loss of students in case the schools had to be closed down unexpectedly over security issues.

Another unfortunate aspect of the whole episode was collection of extra charges by some elite private schools in the name of security. The stakeholders who had been raising concerns over the absence of government control over affairs of the privately educational institutions were exploited yet again.

A number of incidents related to prank calls by students were also reported, highlighting the psychological impact of the prevailing situation.

Like mainstream education, the reforms in Deeni Madaris (religious seminaries) remained a challenge for the government as it did not make concrete efforts to bring religious schools at par with mainstream educational institutions.

The new National Education Policy, which otherwise attracted strong criticism, also asked the Interior Ministry to establish a regulatory authority for religious seminaries with to reform them, providing them better facilities and modernising the syllabus so that their students could compete with others in the job market.

In Punjab, people have been waiting for a body supposed to regulate and streamline the affairs of private educational institutions of the province. The Punjab government made tall claims of evolving a regulatory body for private schools besides amending the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance, 1984, but nothing practical had been witnessed so far despite the passage of almost one year when Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had formed a special 'high power' committee in this connection. There is a common feeling that since elite private schools are owned by families of politicians, the government does not want to 'hurt' the few bigwigs at the cost of the poor.

As far as the new National Education Policy is concerned, it's most important part is that the allocation for education would be seven per cent of thenational GDP by 2015. However, meagre allocation for this important sector as seen in previous years has been worrying educationists who believe that it should not be merely a statement this time.

Another important announcement in the said policy was that grades XI and XII will not be part of the college education as intermediate level education would be merged into the school education. This particular announcement too invited strong reservations from the stakeholders, especially teachers, who term the move a conspiracy against the country's education system.

The year 2009 witnessed a lot of initiatives by the Punjab government in the field of education, however, there were some issues which remained unattended. The teachers' training programme for college teachers could not be launched despite the unfortunate fact that allocations in this connection had lapsed in the previous budget.

The decision regarding conversion of existing government schools of Lahore district into English medium schools by April 2010 is another important move which has raised concerns among the stakeholders. They are of the view that without capacity building of teachers, the move can prove quite dangerous. They say that the government should realise the ground realities before making a final decision.

Nonetheless, introduction of four-year BA/BSc (Hons) programme in public sector colleges of the country remained a challenge to the Punjab government too. Though the provincial government launched this programme in some selected colleges, it was done once the admission process was almost complete owing to which criticism welcomed the government on this front as well.

Similarly, the Punjab government had to face strong criticism for its decision to establish a veterinary university in Bahawalpur as the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council (PVMC), highlighting the lack of qualified faculty, deteriorating standard of veterinary and animal husbandry education and lack of practical facilities in existing institutions, questioned the establishment of the new university. The announcement regarding establishment of a veterinary university in Bahawalpur was made by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in November this year.

The much-discussed possible merger of the Provincial Institute of Teachers Education (PITE) into the Directorate of Staff Development (DSD) finally materialised in November. It was believed that owing to overlapping of functions, the human resource and finances were being wasted. Similarly, the Science Education Centre (SEC) has been merged into the DSD while amended functions of integrated set up of DSD were also notified.

Some initiatives which undoubtedly invited appreciation from the stakeholders were the Punjab government's decision regarding fee waiver for students of the government schools appearing in matriculation examinations and setting up of IT labs in more than 4,000 schools across the province. The technology-based initiative is being seen as an effort to bridge the 'digital divide' between the private and public schools.

Similarly, the award of hefty prizes to top position-holders in matriculation, intermediate and BA/BSc examinations continued to be the hallmark of the Punjab government while the exchange of delegations, comprising position-holders of different provinces, also continued this year. Like last year, a delegation of toppers of Punjab, including two from other provinces as well, will also be visiting foreign universities in the coming year.

In the year 2009, one of the oldest and biggest libraries of the country the Punjab Public Library (PPL) Lahore, established in 1884, also celebrated its 125th anniversary celebrations. The library has approximately 450,000 books including dozens of rare manuscripts while those looking after affairs of the library have been demanding maximum funds for preservation of rare manuscripts and much-needed expansion of the library.

The Government College University (GCU) also made the headlines during this year when 31 members of university's Computer Science Department, including its chairman, teaching and non-teaching staff, presented their resignations to the vice-chancellor in protest against the alleged undue interference of the registrar's office in March 2009.

Similarly, the Punjab University (PU) also remained focus of attention owing to its 'students-politics' and a number of violent incidents were reported from the university.

Fearing the brain-drain of HEC-funded Pakistani scholars, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) evolved a comprehensive strategy in 2009 to prosecute against the scholars who refused to return after the completion of their PhD programmes during the year 2009. The commission has vowed that integrated efforts will continue to improve the monitoring and vigilance of the foreign scholars. It also warned that the name of the absconding scholars would be posted on the HEC website.

Another important issue which remained a subject of heated debate among the academic circles was the delay in issuance of UK visas to Pakistani students. Subsequently, various universities instructed their non-PhD faculty members to get admissions to the universities of China, Germany, Malaysia, Russia, Sweden and other countries to save time and money.

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CM formed body to deal with FJMC affiliation issue
Lahore: Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday formed a five-member committee to hold a meeting with the students of the Fatima Jinnah Medical College over the issue of its affiliation with the University of Health Sciences.

The committee will be headed by MPA Dr Asad Ashraf and comprise Secretary Health and UHS vice-chancellor, FJMC principal and Dr Amer Aziz as its members. The committee will meet the representatives of the FJMC students on December 26 and discuss the issue before submitting its recommendation to the chief minister within five days.

However, the students of FJMC have rejected the constitution of the body, terming it a ëpartial committee.í They demanded the government constitute a neutral committee. They suggested that the new committee should include MNA Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, MPA Mohsin Latif, MPA Dr Asad Ashraf, Advisor to Chief Minister Zakia Shahnawaz, PML-N (Women Wing) joint secretary and representative of old students of FJMC Dr Farzana Nazir and FJMC/SGRH Principal Prof Dr Abdul Majeed Chaudhry.

Meanwhile, the students of FJMC continued their protest and boycott of classes on Tuesday for 16th consecutive day. The students and members of Association of Fatima Jinnah Old Graduates (AFJOG) expressed serious reservations against the collegeís affiliation with the UHS.

Holding banners and placards and raising slogans against the governmentís decision, the protestors demanded the government restore the FJMCís affiliation with the Punjab University and later grant it a university status. Later, MPA Mohsin Latif approached the protestors and assured them to address their grievances.

Meanwhile, a five-member delegation of students of the FJMC met MNA Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who, according to them, had assured full support to them and promised to arrange their meeting with Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif at the earliest. Later, they also met the special secretary Health and claimed that he had sent a new summary to the chief minister regarding the issue. The news

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GCUF admin saved governor's blushes
Faisalabad: The Government College University Faisalabad (GCUF) administration has saved the governor's face by obtaining a written undertaking from the position-holders that they will not do anything likely to cause embarrassment to the guest of honour.

The university took the undertaking to prevent repetition of any incident like the ones in which students (in individual capacity) refused to receive degrees from Governor Salmaan Taseer in front of the audience representing various callings. The governor graced the second convocation of the GCUF held at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad auditorium (that was hired) on Tuesday.

Obtaining written undertaking from the distinction-holders, sources said, the university warned them that their degrees would be cancelled and they would be proceeded against if they did anything wrong during the convocation. They said the undertaking was obtained on a simple page and the relevant departments prepared the text.

They said the GCUF administration sent directions to the heads of departments to bind their students (in writing) not to commit any wrongdoing.

A high achiever said the university obtained her signature on a handwritten text on the pretext that "the exercise is being conducted for security purposes". She said she was shocked to read that it was an undertaking seeking the students to behave in the governor's presence.

"I will not commit any wrongdoing during the convocation, if so, the university is eligible to proceed against me by holding my medal, canceling degree and punishment under the relevant law (sic)," she read out the paper.

She said the GCUF administration had done so to conceal its inefficiencies and protect the governor against public criticism. She said the governor, being the chancellor of the university, was supposed to listen to the problems related to academia through a question-and-answer session with the young learners. "In fact, I had prepared a questionnaire for the governor, but the effort has proved futile."

A university official confirmed the undertaking exercise which, he said, was meant to spare the governor's blushes by pre-empting any protest against him or the government policies.

The university administration, however, denied having taken any undertaking from the position-holders. Zohaib, a university spokesman, quoted vice-chancellor Dr Shahid Mehboob Rana as saying the university had not taken undertaking from any student.

Quoting Controller of Examination Javed Aslam Bajwa, the spokesman said the exercise was meant to avoid uproar.

Two students, one in Lahore and the other in Faisalabad, had refused to accept awards by the governor. The governor was flabbergasted on Oct 11 last when Punjab University student Muhammad Shahid refused to receive medal from him "in protest against government policies".

On Nov 16, Atta Rasool, a textile engineering student of the Faisalabad University, declined to receive bronze medal from the governor "for he nurtured a grudge against him". The governor stood embarrassed on both occasions.

Sources said the GCUF vice chancellor had gone for the unprecedented step to save the governor from embarrassment. The governor, they said, had appointed him by violating the rules. When the chief minister came to know about the illegal appointment of Dr Shahid Mehboob, they said, the Higher Education Department had declared the seat vacant and sought applications for the VC slot.

The Punjab government also issued an advertisement in the press and fixed Aug 8 last date for submission of applications. However, Dr Mehboob obtained stay against the decision from the Lahore High Court and the matter was pending with court. Dawn

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GCU physics conference
Lahore: A three-day national conference on 'Radiation, Particles and Matter', kicked off at the Government College (GC) University Bokhari Auditorium on Tuesday.

According to a press release, the conference is a joint collaboration of the GCU Physics Department Rafi Mohammad Chair and the National Centre for Physics (NCP), Islamabad. The conference features nine technical sessions on 'Ion Beam Analysis', 'Nanotechnology', 'Plasma Physics', 'Thin Films', 'Material Science' and 'Laser Applications'.

Researchers, from across the country, will present 39 research papers at the conference. GCU Vice Chancellor Dr Khalid Aftab was the Chief Guest at the conference's inaugural ceremony.

Addressing the participants, Dr Khalid Aftab advised scholars to discourage plagiarism. He called for more research, based on the works of noted scientists. He said strengthening of institutions is necessary for the society's growth.

GCU Dean of Sciences Dr Amin-ul-Haq said the proceedings of the conference would be published, so that students could benefit from the research papers presented here. Rafi Mohammad Chair Dr Nisar presented a research paper on 'Ion Beam Analysis'.

NCP's Dr Aqeel Ahsan Khurram presented a paper on the 'Strengths of backscattering spectroscopy for characterization of thin films'. GC University researchers presented a paper on 'PIXE analysis of tap water of Lahore'. NCP's Tajamul Hussain presented a research paper on 'Titanium dioxide supported gold nanocatalyst for greenhouses gas emission control'.

The conference will continue until December 24, 2009 (Thursday). Meanwhile GCU, Lahore, won the All Punjab Essay Writing Contest organised by the Punjab National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to create awareness among students about combating corruption. Daily times

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PMDC not playing due role
Lahore: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) said Tuesday that Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) had failed badly in fulfilling its duties and this sinking ship was currently occupied by the owners of private medical colleges who were working for their vested interests.

According to a press release issued here, PMA Punjab chapter general secretary Dr Akhtar Rasheed Malik, Lahore chapter general secretary Dr Tanveer Anwar and central joint secretary Dr Shahid Malik, in a joint press statement, said that PMDC had failed to fulfill its responsibilities regarding the regulations of medical and dental education and related practices in Pakistan.

They observed that the stake holders were not represented properly in the PMDC, adding it was the need of hour to increase seats for elected members in PMDC along with representation of PMA in each committee.

It is observed that PMDC, by recognizing private medical colleges, had been involved in financial, administrative and legal irregularities. And the nexus of private medical colleges & PMDC is working for glorification of private medical colleges. The news

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Course on Information Management
Lahore: A one-day training course on"Information Management in Learning Organizations: A Challenge for Information Professionals" would be conducted in the Punjab University Main Library. The inaugural ceremony will be held on Wednesday, December23 at 9:00am. Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran will be the chief guest on the occasion. PPI

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