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Inflation and education | USAID scholarships

Inflation and education
Aug 16, 2008: Inflation is fast becoming education's nemesis. The new academic year has brought in a flood of problems for the parents of school going children owing to the price hike. Textbooks, tuition fees and even the price of school uniforms and shoes have gone up. The essential needs of students have become more expensive, slowly going out of reach for the common man. Most private schools have increased their fees and are charging newcomers exorbitantly. The increase in the price of textbooks has sparked a blame game where the publishers are putting the responsibility on the paper producers for creating a shortage whereas the latter while refuting these charges attribute the price hike to rising input costs. The impact of skyrocketing prices on the education sector may have an adverse effect on the net enrollment rate (NER) of the country which currently stands at a paltry 56 per cent.

The problem is basic: unlimited wants and scarce resources. Naturally low-income families may choose to spend their meagre incomes on their meals to survive. With burgeoning food prices there is little left to spend on other needs like education, which would appear to be a luxury to a family which cannot eat a square meal every day. Thus education suffers. In order to prevent children from dropping out, the government and schools themselves need to play a constructive role. Education is the primary responsibility of the state and in the last decade or so the government in Pakistan has unfortunately tried to shift this responsibility to the private sector. As a result education has increasingly become more unaffordable and inaccessible for the indigent - more so today when food inflation has compounded the problems of many classes. Undoubtedly public sector schools do exist but official policy being what it is these institutions suffer from serious neglect. The issue is of the quality of education in government schools, which has basically created the push towards the private sector. With fewer people now being able to afford it, the vacuum in the public sector is being acutely felt. This calls for a concentrated effort by the government to increase the number of schools and improve the quality of education in its own institutions. Private schools can help mitigate the problems of their students by providing text books on loan, economising on exercise books and curtailing their profit margin in different areas. They would thus be able to cater to a wider segment of society filling the gap left by poor public sector education in the country.

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USAID's $90 million ED-LINKS programme scholarships
Islamabad: Overwhelmed by pride, Munaza Ashraf had never thought that her daughter Hafsa Ashraf would win a scholarship to the US. But that was before the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) stepped in.

Hafsa Ashraf is among the 26 local government high school students who were selected for a two-week science and technology exchange programme in Washington.

"I've never thought she will achieve something this big. I'm very proud of Hafsa. I hope she uses this as a stepping stone to greater things," said Munaza while holding a camera as she waited for her daughter to pose for a picture with the US embassy representatives.

A tenth grader, Hafsa is a student of F.G. Girls Model School, Humak, and she has never grabbed anything but first or second position in her academic career.

The exchange programme is part of the USAID's $90 million Links to Learning (ED-LINKS) programme, which will teach the students web development, digital photography and video production. The first batch of students 14 boys and 12 girls under this programme has representation of both rural and urban areas of Islamabad.

Speaking at a send-off ceremony organised at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on Wednesday, USAID Mission Director Anne Aarnes said: "I know your parents and teachers are proud of your high academic achievements and your selection for this programme."

She underlined the need for building "cross-cultural understanding" and termed exchange programmes as the "first step of broadening world view" of the participating students.

"You are going to have once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience American life firsthand, while also learning more about the latest information technology," Ms Aarnes said, adding that: "I know that you will be proud and effective representatives of Pakistan, and that you will form rewarding friendships with the American students and teachers you meet."

Asad Khattaq, a tenth grader from F.G. Boys Model School, G-9/4, Islamabad, has been at the top of his class since first grade. A high achiever, he has always aimed for above 80 per cent marks. "I will be representing Pakistan and I'm proud of this honour," Asad said.

ED-LINKS will send up to 30 students each from Balochistan, Sindh and Islamabad every year. Students are selected on merit basis from underprivileged households in these areas. The ED-LINKS programme woks in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Pakistan. Dawn

Your Comments
"I am Noorzia Afridi I want to know about ED-Links Programs for FATA sepecially for women as well as women NGOs working for Women Development in FATA. Thanks."
Name: Noorzia Afridi
City, Country: Khyber Agency, Pakistan

"i am the student of 10 grade in f.g boys school tarlai can i applies for scholarship.and make visit to u.s.a?please replay m"
Name: mubashir gulab
City, Country: islamabad

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