Ad hocism puts education sector in disarray

Secretary education, another important post has fallen vacant
Islamabad, Jan 01: With the retirement of secretary education on Wednesday another important post has fallen vacant, as the Higher Education Commission (HEC) is still awaiting appointment of its chairperson.

The former HEC Chairman, Dr Attaur Rehman, had submitted his resignation, reportedly on the insistence of the government, some two and half months back, but the government is yet to find a suitable replacement for him.

Similar is the case of Jehangir Bashar, the outgoing secretary education, whose retirement was notified a couple of months ago by the Establishment Division and the government had enough time to find his replacement.

This attitude brings into question the government's level of commitment towards education.

The government has asked Ms Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Special Assistant to the prime minister on social welfare to take care of day to day official work at the HEC. Similarly, an additional secretary would look after the affairs of secretary's office.

Some senior officials at the HEC reveal that in the absence of a regular chairperson, the commission had become a rudderless ship. During the tenure Dr Attaur Rehman, there used to be meetings after meetings till midnight. However, since his resignation on October 9, one does not see such activities any more, a non-gazzetted official of the commission said.

Deep cuts in the budgetary allocations of the commission mainly earmarked for the development activities in the public sector universities of the country in the current financial year have further reduced its (HEC) area of activity.

When asked, a well placed official of the HEC confided, "we absolutely don't know what the government is up to as far as its future plans are concerned regarding the commission."

There is whole lot of rumors: Autonomous status of the commission is under scrutiny and the government is considering giving it back to the federal education ministry. The government is waiting for the return of an American of Pakistani origin to appoint her next HEC chairperson. She is currently working with the Bush administration which will be officially over on January 20, when new US president takes over the charge, the official said.

It will be a grave mistake on the part of government if it wraps up HEC, which over the last few years had become a dynamic public sector organization which raised the level of university education in the country with scores of new initiatives.

Though education is a provincial subject, the role of federal education ministry is of critical importance; it decides on the curriculum which is taught in the public sector schools and colleges up to intermediate level.

It is the federal education ministry when it comes to liaison between the provincial governments and the federal government, be it the issue of increased funding from the federal pool or changes regarding examination system. Therefore, the presence of secretary education is always of pivotal importance, hence, the government should have taken some decision, knowing the fact, he is retiring December 31, an official from the education said.

"Yes, the government is preoccupied with more important issues right now such as economic melt down and tension with India, but it does not mean, it should leave these important positions vacant," the official added. Dawn

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Merit ignored in appointment of lecturers in Gomal University
Islamabad: The Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan, has inducted more than 85 lecturers in BPS-18 without merit.

Deputy Speaker National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi, who earlier wrote letters to the prime minister, governor and Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman to take notice of rampant malpractices in the university, no longer seems concerned. Campus protests are being staged almost on a daily basis against the university administration, especially against the vice-chancellor of Gomal University, Dr Farid Khan.

The university administration had inducted more than 70 lectures on contract basis in the second half of 2007 in various departments of the university without advertising any post. According to faculty members of the university, these inductees were either relatives of the varsity high-ups or had political backing. Later, the posts were advertised in the national newspapers in January 2008 and screening tests were conducted in May 2008. Hundreds of candidates applied against the posts but only those who were already working in the university on contact basis were selected.

The university administration admits that it has regularised the services of more than 70 lecturers who were inducted without any advertisement on contract basis in the second half of 2007 but says the appointments were according to the rules.

Kundi, in his letter dated June 4, 2008 wrote: "Since June 2007 to date quite a few vacant positions in various departments were filled that were neither advertised nor individuals selected through constituted committee/Boards. The management of the Gomal University has now advertised some positions. In this regard call letters were issued for screening test on 23, 24 and 25 May 2008. This is just a formality to regularise those who have been appointed on a contract basis in violation of Establishment Division Cabinet secretariat: Government of Pakistan letter No. 6/2/2000-R.3 of 06 May, 2000."

One of the professors of the university, Pervaiz Saleem, who is also a member of the university syndicate, openly disagreed with the vice-chancellor of the university in appointing the near and dear ones in the university. Professor Pervaiz Saleem said that he raised his voice because he was not satisfied with the selection criteria. He said that he expressed his dissent when so many near and dear ones were appointed on contact basis in the university in violation of the rules and feared that all those would be regularised, and the same happened. If those lecturers who were inducted on contract basis were to be regularised then there was no need of advertising the posts. While one of the candidates said that candidates with PhD degrees were rejected while Master's degree holders were selected because of nepotism and political influence.

Kundi, when approached by this correspondent, said that he wrote letters to the prime minister and NWFP governor to take notice of these appointments and an inspection team was formulated which gave a report that all these inductions were done on merit. "After getting that report I was satisfied that the inductions were done on merit", he said.

The spokesman of the university, speaking on behalf of the vice-chancellor, said that all appointments were made on merit. He admitted that all those who were appointed on contract basis have been regularised. "The university's selection committee has approved the induction, therefore, the recruitment was legal," said Fazlur Rehman. "The committee nominates the names of inductees to the university syndicate and the syndicate approves it and all has been done according to the rules."

He denied that a contract worth billions was given to a firm closely associated with an influential politician of the area and said that the contract of boundary wall around the university was given to six different contractors. About the protests in the university against the vice-chancellor, the spokesman said that Dera Bachao Tehrik was behind it and it is the right of the people to protest. About the kin of vice-chancellor and other high-ups of Dera Ismail Khan being inducted in the university, the spokesman said that there were a few relatives of VC, including his nephew, among the recently regularised lecturers but all have been inducted on merit. But when pointed out that candidates with PhD degree were rejected while those holding Master's degree were selected, he said the former might have got fewer marks in the written examination.

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Rs 2.25 billion for NWFP education sector
Islamabad: The European Commission (EC) has provided an amount of $20 million (equivalent to Rs 2.25 billion) for the NWFP Education Sector Reforms Programme.

The financing agreement for this grant has been signed with the Economic Affairs Division, the Government of Pakistan. The Charge díAffaires of the delegation of the European Commission (EC) to Pakistan, Frank Hess, said on Wednesday that the European Commission was committed to providing support to the education sector in Pakistan and feels that education is the only way to sustainable development.

However, the Commission views with grave concern the unabated spate of bombings of schools in the NWFP. He said the Commission believes that these bombings and ultimatums to school-going girls negate the basic human values and are totally unacceptable.

"We encourage the Government of Pakistan to take all possible measures for ensuring the safety of children and protection of their fundamental right to education," he added. Frank Hess said the grant was provided in the context of the EC-Pakistan Development Co-operation Programme, under which the EC now has current grant commitments to Pakistan totalling over Rs 24.75 billion.The overall objective of the EC's current contribution is to support the NWFP government in implementing the reforms outlined under the Education Sector Plan.

IIUI student tops inter-varsity speech contest
Islamabad: Muhammad Arif Moqueem, a student of Centre of Media & Mass Communication of International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI) got the top position in Inter University Speech Contest (IUSC). The contest titled 'Importance of Role of Students against HIV and AIDS' was held recently by Community Support Programme at University of Lahore, Islamabad Campus. Arif was awarded a shield by Pir Sumsam Ali Shah Bukhari, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, said a press release here Wednesday. Meanwhile, Director Daw'ah Academy Professor Abdul Jabbar Shakir has been given an extension of a period of two years. The News

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