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UK dubious consultants lure students | Girls' madrassas

Dubious agents lure local students with 'safe passage' to the UK
Karachi, May 16: The British government's lenient policy for the influx of Pakistani students has started biting back with a more startling disclosure as colleges of dubious reputation in the UK have hired the services of fake agents or education consultants in Pakistan who are simply recruiting employment-seekers in the garb of students, investigation has revealed.

Very few of them are properly trained and certified by foreign universities. The rest, it seems, are thriving on their nexus with less-accredited colleges that often turn out to be a two-room establishment. Desperate students line up before such consultants and pay the desired [non-refundable] fee for furnishing documents prior to seeking a visa.

"Such consultants can be found concentrated in areas like Gulshan-e-Iqbal who are approached by students willing to go abroad to work rather than study," said a leading consultant, wishing not to be named. "Students pay them for arranging documents that include degree sponsorship letters and an admission offer in any college or university abroad."

Apart from universities of all statures and repute, London alone is replete with colleges affiliated to universities that offer 'readymade solutions' to anybody willing to pay. "Once you pay their fee that piece of paper eventually earns you an extension to your student visa," informed Nisar, a student on vacation from London. "I worked in London throughout my first year yet got a certificate from the college that I studied there. The degree helped me extend my period of stay as it showed my willingness to study further," he explained. However, warned Nisar, if one attempts to show an admission offer in the college before applying for the visa, the agents flatly charge 300 pounds sterling (GBP).

Inquiries into the scandalous nature of education consultants who have mushroomed in the city revealed further interesting facts. For example, some Pakistani students learnt the rope so well that they ended up opening the Liverpool College of Management Sciences at Borough High Street in London in connivance with British nationals, it is alleged.

Online interviews of Pakistani students studying in different cities of the UK, endorsed the fact that majority of them sought admission there because they wanted to make their higher education experience somewhat financially rewarding as well. "We could finance our studies with a few odd jobs and also send some money back home," said a student of University of Central Lancashire.

As per the Emigration Ordinance of 1979, anybody going abroad on either work or student visa needs to get a no objection certificate (NOC) from the office of the Protectorate of Emigration before flying to the destination country. "This is to ensure the legal movement and stay of Pakistani nationals abroad for a stipulated time, but it is not a practice," an official of the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment said, who admitted having a record of the country's manpower export, but not that of students.

Putting two and two together, Rubeena Hoodbhoy, Chairperson Pakistan National Education Consultant Association (PNECA), said the growth of education consultants was witnessed when foreign universities in the UK, Australia and elsewhere grew in number and outsourced marketing of their educational institutes for students of developing countries like Pakistan and India. "We all know that this is a clear case of abusing a student visa, but it is not a one-sided affair," she maintained. "The growth of colleges there warrants feeding of students from developing countries like Pakistan."

The PNECA head added that genuine education consultants do not promise a student visa but only act as a buffer solution between the universities they represent and the students here. Acknowledging misleading claims like 'visa and money back guarantee' by several agents, she said PNECA - which comprises 15 member consultants - refrains from such a practice. "We charge [interested] students with what the admission process costs us, besides verifying the authenticity of their documents."

Another leading consultant, Syed Hashim, blamed inconsistent information [with respect to education in the UK] for chaos on consultants' front. He revealed that students come to him seeking admission in colleges in Australia and New Zealand, but there is no chance of them ending up in either of these countries without the required IELTS score.

"This is not the case when you seek admission to British institutions," he continued. "The UK Border Agency website is silent on the IELTS requirement and hence it is assumed that it is not one of the prerequisites.

Similarly, colleges in the UK tend to offer admission without the IELTS score unless the student has earned a grade below 'C' in his O and A' Level exams. This leniency is bound to attract the desperate Pakistani youth to try their luck."

The British Council officials confirm that since it was not possible for every university in the UK to have its representative in Pakistan this led to the growth of education consultants. However, with the new point-based system in place since March this year, only genuine students would be granted a visa, they believe. "Earlier students could seek admissions to as many as 15,000 educational institutions, we have now restricted that choice to only 1,400 - all of which are registered with the UK Border Agency,"

informed the council's official. The students would only be allowed an admission in one of the prescribed college or university otherwise their visa application will be rejected. The News

Pak students shifted to hardened criminals' cell in UK
Lahore: Three Pakistani students arrested in the UK have been shifted to the hardened criminals' cell in the jail, Dunya News reported on Friday. The men were among a group of 12 picked up in a highly publicised counter-terrorism operation across northern England earlier this month. The channel quoted the British interior secretary as saying that the investigation was under progress against the students, Tariq Rehman, Abdul Wahab and Shoaib Khan.

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Girls' madrassas expanding at a dramatic rate
Lahore: There are more than 1,900 registered madrassas for girls in Pakistan. And the female madrassas are expanding at a dramatic rate, educating almost a quarter of a million girls and providing more than half of the candidates taking the graduate-level examinations every year.

The madrassas are experiencing a boom thanks to the failures of the public education system and an increasing appetite in the lower middle class for traditional Islamic values.

The boom in female madrassas has led to the funding of a project to examine their impact. An Oxford academic, Dr Masooda Bano, has received more than 400,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council to study their appeal and their students.

According to the latest statistics, nearly 236,000 girls are studying in the madrassas. The girls exceed males in academic achievement so that a greater number register for graduate examination. They also have a higher pass rate.

The madrassas charge fees. The number of unregistered madrassas could be much higher. Bano said, "Parents who send their daughters to madrassas are lower middle class. The girls who enter are aged between 16 and 20. Most say it was their choice. There is an emergence of a very conservative value system. Madrassas promote traditional roles for women and students feel confident about their position in society. You cannot associate this phenomena with poverty."

She says the madrassas give women economic and social opportunities.

As part of her research, she will explore the links between the growth of female madrassas and religious militancy. Part of her work will focus on Jamia Hafsa, attached to the Red Mosque in Islamabad.

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BNU students display degree show at Alhamra
Lahore: Students of the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) Graduate Diploma in Art Education displayed their degree show at the Alhamra Art Gallery on Friday.

The show, which would remain open until May 21, showcases the work of seven graduating students. The first, Ehsanul Haq, chose to question the placement of physical objects in one system. "I am very enthralled by the creative nature of human beings and their potential to alter a situation in accordance to their needs," he said.

Moria Plair presented digital prints of the human brain. She said, "My images evoke the memories of despair. They focus on how each resolution leads to the need for further resolution, which in turn causes conflict."

Faseeh Saleem, meanwhile, presented colourful and beautifully intricate pieces of art as his thesis. He used embroidery to give his work a unique perspective. He said: "My observations of the agony experience by infertile women compelled me to express my feelings." Rabia Tariq's digital prints, meanwhile, focused on her personal distress. "My work is a reflection of my thoughts. The four elements used to portray my mental conflict reflect my survival," she said.

The fifth participant, Iqra Tanveer, particularly captured the attention of the audience due to its different essence. She created an installation that showed the flow of water in a glass box. Iqra said, "My work is derivative of nature. The truth that derives from dialogue with the natural world is my focus." Likewise, Mahereen Murtaza's work caught the attention of many in the audience. She described her work by saying: "The virtual world offers a romantic longing for the absolute. The atmosphere of subversion in my work is borne of today's socio-religious context, wherein modern technology collides with religious myth, superstition and ritual." Sakunthala Galanga, the sole foreign student of the course, teaches children and her work shows their influence. "I found a group of children who had just began to read and write. Pre-historic art was a wonderful topic for their lesson plan and encouraged me to draw and paint with them," she said.

Teachers: BNU School of Visual Arts Dean Salima Hashmi said, "This is our second graduating class, and we welcome their entrance into the growing pool of well-educated teachers of art and design." Daily Times

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Teachers demand promotions
Lahore: National Trade Union Federation, Punjab, President Moeen Nawaz Panu has said that the teachers of the Punjab Workers Welfare Board have been suffering for the last 20 years without promotions and other incentives. According to a press release on Friday, Mr Moeen said the PWWB teachers in 1999 were transferred from the Social Security to the Workers Welfare Board without their accord. He said the teachers' salaries had not been increased and they were not given other incentives. The LHC had given a verdict on the PWWB teacher's problems but house requisition and promotion rights had not been given to the teachers, he added. The News

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GCU staff donates 1.375m for the IDPs
Lahore: The Vice Chancellor Government College University Lahore Prof. Dr. Khalid Aftab and the staff of GCU donates two days salary amounting 13 lac 75 thousand 582 for the welfare of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Swat Valley in different areas of Pakistan, in a somber ceremony arranged for the IDPs at the Bokhari Auditorium of GCU. The Vice Chancellor GC University Lahore Prof. Dr. Khalid Aftab while speaking at the occasion said that the institution has enriched academic traditions. He said that GCU staffs have always been supporting the people who are affected by the natural calamities. He also appreciated the sympathic approach of the staff for contributing to the cause of humanity. F.P report

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Punjab University results
Lahore: The Punjab University Examination Department declared the results of various examinations on Friday. According to a press statement, these exams include MSc Applied Environmental Sciences (Self Supporting), Semester System, Session 2004-2006, BS (Hons) Communication Studies (4-Years Programme), Semester System, Session 2004-2008, Diploma in Labour Laws (Final Result, First and Second Semester), Session 2007-2008 and Diploma in Banking Laws (Final Result, First and Second Semester), Session 2007-2008. Detailed result is available at PU website Daily Times

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