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Student fights and politics | Islamabad libraries

Student fights and politics: Religious groups venturing into QAU
Islamabad, May 20: Although there are six councils in Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU), they have never been involved in politics due to which the environment of the university has been peaceful compared to other universities.

However, a religious group has been trying to establish a council, and problems in the university have started increasing.

For the last one month, councils have been resisting the religious group but the group has retorted. It lodged a criminal case against two members of a council, and even tried to bring blasphemy in the issue due to which both students had to quit studies.

The situation has created resentment among the students of all six councils.

A student of QAU, requesting anonymity, said there are a Punjab Council, Pakhtun Council, Mehran Council, Siraiki Council, Baloch Council and Gilgit-Baltistan Council in the university. These were established over two decades ago except for the GB council, which was established two years ago.

"Although sometimes they (councils) have differences, they have never supported involvement of politicians in the university.
Last year (in March) a religious group had tried to hold a meeting to form a new council in the university, but the other councils stopped it," he said.

He said that in the first week of April this year, the same religious group had announced a meeting and had invited around 200 students from various educational institutions of the federal capital to participate.

However, the councils stopped the meeting, resulting in increased differences. In the last week of April, some students of religious group had scuffled with students of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council.

"Two students of Mathematics and Defence and Strategic Studies departments, who belong to the religious group, lodged a complaint in the Secretariat Police Station against two other students of the History and International Relations departments (both belonging to G-B Councils). A First Information Report (FIR) was registered against them, and both students were forced to leave the university or face arrest," he said.

Another student of QAU said students belonging to the religious group tried to make the fight an issue of blasphemy.

"He (a student of the religious group) claimed that he had a beard, and the opponent had pulled at his hair during the fight, which should be considered blasphemy," the student said.

Investigation Officer of Secretariat Police Station Ghulam Sarwar Naeemi also confirmed that the students had tried to register a case of blasphemy.

"We told them that it cannot be considered blasphemy and registered a case under section 337-A, 182 and 506/34 (fight and threat to kill) between the two groups," he said.

He added that the complainants had said a patch up was being arranged between the rivals therefore no action had been taken, but so far he had not received the patch up in writing.

A student belonging to the Punjab Council said he had learnt that political personalities of the federal capital belonging to a religious party had allegedly used their influence for registration of the FIR.

"Because of the FIR, both students cannot continue their studies; even the management of the university has given permission to the police to arrest both students from the hostel or university campus," he said.

He said a truce was being negotiated, as otherwise both students would be unable to join their studies, and their low attendance may bar them from appearing for the exams.

"It seems a patch up will be made at the cost of allowing the religious group to continue its activities within the university," he said.

"We don't want political activities in the university because once political groups are established, educational activities will stop and the students will be used for politics," he said.

Students of QAU have appealed to the management of the university to take notice of political activities within the university and ensure a peaceful environment for education.

Registrar QAU Dr Shafique-ur-Rehman said that an officer of the university had been inquiring of the issue and the decision regarding the status of the students would be taken after the completion of the enquiry. Dawn

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HEC expanding degree attestation facility
Islamabad: Higher Education Commission (HEC) has finalised arrangements to expand the office space and hire the services of more officials to make the process of attestation of degrees easier for the general public. Talking to media, HEC Chairman Dr Javed R Laghari said the decision to expand the facility was taken after ameeting with the officials and will be implemented by June 1. He said the commission has also decided to hire the services of more courier companies to avoid delays in sending or receiving degrees from other countries for attestation. He said the degrees' verification has become veryimportant during the previous years and it has become an essential requirement for the overseas Pakistani to get their degrees attested for job or business purposes. He said 500 to 1000 people are visiting HEC main office for degrees' attestation and are bound to wait for a week or more due to low manpower and insufficient space. But now HEC has finalised plan to open more windows with computers by expanding the area and hire more trained officials to facilitate the people. The people will now be able to get their degrees attested within three or four days or in a single day, if they needed urgently and charges would be nominal for urgent process. The chairman said HEC has recently cleared the backlog of around 40,000 degrees which were pending for attestation. app

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Libraries in Islamabad colleges in dismal condition
lslamabad: Libraries are a historic source of knowledge for students. But a tour around Islamabad reveals that students at Islamabad colleges have little in the way of libraries and books.

Mohammad Hanif, a student of a federal government college, was assigned a task by a teacher to inquire that how many people are in the country.

He consulted the college library to complete the task but could not get the latest information about the population of the country.

"Most of the books in the college library were published in the 1960s and 70s. There are even books written in Bengali, although a large number of students cannot read Bengali. I felt my assignment was not up to the mark. I told the teacher but he did not notice. We really need up-to-date knowledge but our library failed to provide the latest information," he said.

Hanif is not the only student who has been facing problems regarding the library. Most of the students cannot get the latest information from libraries due to which the trend of research is decreasing.

A library is the oldest repository of knowledge, and it has always remained a focus among Muslim and non-Muslim rulers. It means that libraries have been playing a vital role in supporting and promoting education and research in educational institutions.

Islamabad, the capital and the most modern city of the country, must be exemplary for rest of the college libraries in this respect.

A professor of the college, requesting not to be named, said that unfortunately the condition of libraries in the capital colleges did not seem very good.

On the one hand, there is an acute shortage of books in these libraries and on the other hand, most of the books stuffed irregularly in different shelves are not only irrelevant and outdated but also lack the latest research and intellectual activities.

Library material like books, reference material (dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, atlases, journals, periodicals, etc.) are mostly outdated and in the worst possible condition, he added.

"Meanwhile, in modern educational institutions in the world, the use of audio visuals is an integral part of libraries. The libraries of ICT colleges are not equipped with current technology as e-books, digital databases, HEC digital databases access, computers, internet facility, CDs, DVDs and computer library catalogue," he said.

"There is hardly a single library among all the ICT colleges where there is facility of photocopy in the library, if required by the students, as it generally happens. Even in the teaching methodology and the syllabi, there is no room for teachers to even ask students to refer extra books on the subject being taught," he said.

The libraries of the colleges, which used to provide for the academic needs of teachers, students and researchers, have turned into a reading hall. One can see the students there reading only newspapers, he added.

One of the students at H-9 College said: "The library does not have any computer so no one can get internet facility here. It's ridiculous to look to traditional books when information today is so readily available on computer.

We cannot enjoy turning pages as everything is available on a click of a mouse. Here, the power supply is irregular, fans are not in working order. The furniture is old and mostly broken. There is nothing in the library which attracts us."

The president of the federal government college teachers association, Prof Tahir, said that another problem is, the interiors of the libraries, mostly with broken furniture, shabby walls, no cataloging and unhygienic conditions. This situation has diverted the attention and energy of the students to cell phones.

This is the reason that students sit in groups and individually in lawns of the colleges in their free periods and either listen to loud music or remain busy in chatting.

A teacher, on condition of anonymity, said that the library staff with unconcerned and frustrated attitude add fuel to the fire and repel the students away from the library. The books in cupboards always remain locked; library staff feels a great burden to open it for a student and to remain present while the student goes through the books.

In the oldest and the biggest college of ICT, Islamabad Model Postgraduate H-8/2, there is not any subscribed journal even for M.A/M.Sc students, he said.

Another teacher said: "There are two posts of Librarians in Islamabad Model Postgraduate College of commerce H-8/4. Both the posts of the librarians are not occupied. One is vacant because no posting has been made ever since the college was upgraded to a Postgraduate level whereas the other librarian is on ex-Pakistan leave since one year and no substitute has been provided till today. What a joke it is with the libraries of a Postgraduate college with more than 3,500 students."

An official of the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) said that education had never been on the priority of any of the governments, the administration also took it for granted to address serious issues of the educational institutions well in time.

Library funding is stagnant and no extra funds are put towards purchasing new books.

Students have lost interest and given up the reading habit because of unavailability of quality books. One of the students said "We need credible information but outdated books give us misinformation."

An official of the ministry of CAD said that with the passage of time, libraries are becoming e-libraries, digital libraries and virtual libraries. But in colleges there are not any directions towards this.

Even the library fund, which is deducted from the fees of students, is not utilized for the improvement of the libraries.

On questioning a librarian of a boys' college regarding outdated books and shortage of books he replied that the principal was not interested in the purchase of new books because they were costly.

"Library committees are formed in the colleges for better management of libraries but their meetings never held. The members of the committee are college teachers but they do not show interest in the improvement in the infrastructure of the library and in purchase of books," he said.

"The library staff is not equipped with the modern technology and there are no training programmes for Librarians and library assistants. Internet facility is not provided to libraries which is an essential source of knowledge and library automation," he said.

"There is not any service structure of librarians and they are never promoted. Once a librarian is appointed in BPS-17 he retires in the same scale after serving more than 35 years. Librarians are selected by Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC).The procedure and requirement is similar to a lecturer who retires from government service in BPS-19 or above," he said.

Professor Deedar Ali Baloch, General Secretary FGCTA said that for the improvement of libraries and to create the reading habits among the students and teachers, revolutionary steps should be taken. Libraries should be supplied the latest textbooks and reference materials. Training programs for library staff should be started. Books seminars and books exhibitions should be arranged in ICT colleges.

It is encouraging that the habit of reading in girls is increasing. The library assistant at Margalla College F-7/4 was very much satisfied with the number of readers in the college. Girl students spend most of their spare time in the libraries of the colleges.

The shortage of books in the library is a problem, she pointed out. Moreover, our library is consisting of five rooms and it is difficult to move in these rooms in search of books.

Library must be in a big room (hall), she said.

Director General FDE, Dr Shahnaz A Riaz said that considering the availability of funds, FDE has been purchasing new books and trying to upgrade libraries.

"Every month we instruct educational institutions to purchase three to four books of renowned authors. I am also working to equip libraries with modern technologies," she said. Dawn

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AIOU enjoys high rating on quality assurance
Islamabad: Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) is enjoying best rating on quality assurance providing education through distance learning system as compared to other open universities in the world.

This was stated by Open University Sri Lanka's former vice-chancellor Prof Uma Coomaraswamy who had been appointed by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) as an external verifier on quality assurance.

As per the survey conducted by the COL-RIM, the university performance indicators on quality assurance were highly satisfactory and it was noted that the AIOU was moving ahead to achieve the international standard in providing quality education to its students across the country.

She was addressing a reception, hosted by AIOU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Nazir Ahmed Sangi at the conclusion of her weeklong visit to Pakistan.

She underlined the need of inculcating quality culture within the university premises. She hoped that the university would successfully review itself to meet the international standard.

Prof Uma Coomaraswamy further said that she found a lot of commitment and enthusiasm among the staff of the university for achieving the targets on quality assurance. She held useful interaction and programme-review exercise with the university's staff during her stay in Pakistan.

She called for undertaking necessary exercise to improve the capacity building of their staff. She added that the AIOU was doing much better work in promoting skill-based and job-oriented education, as compared to other universities in the region.

Speakingon the occasion Dr Sangi highlighted the steps being taken by the university for quality assurance as per the requirement of COL. He also mentioned the incentives being provided to the drop-out needy students, helping them to continue their study.

The AIOU has recently entered into agreements with various regional and international educational institutions for exchange of academic programmes and research-based material to improve the teaching plan through distance learning system.

He said that university is planning to set up science laboratories at almost all the regional campuses to promote science education in the country and mobile laboratories will also be deployed. app

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