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Education sector difficulties in 2009

2009 proved difficult year for education sector
Lahore, Jan 03: The year 2009 will be remembered as the year that the war on terror became the war for the survival of the country.

The previous year was especially bad for the education sector, which seemed to be the primary civil sector targeted by terrorists. The twin suicide bomb blasts on the premises of the International Islamic University Islamabad claimed the lives of female students, while hundreds of schools were burnt in Swat and other parts of the NWFP.

For the first time, schools across the country were closed for fear of terrorist attacks, prompting the government, security agencies and school administrations to announce a comprehensive security plan for educational institutions.

Although in 2008, educational institutions were threatened and a few cases were registered, the intensity and severity of the cases was dwarfed by the threats in 2009.

Lahore suffered suicide blasts and scores innocent lives were lost. The worst-hit were the youth as they were unable to focus on their education and had to deal with the traumatising experiences of living in a city turned into a virtual war zone.

Although suicide bombers had earlier targeted the GPO Chowk and FIA building, the Islamic University attacks brought about the grim realisation for the students that the war on terror was now being fought at their doorstep.

The first time the students of Lahore were concerned about their security was when terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team on March 3 last year.

Students and faculty members visited the scene and paid tribute to the martyrs who died defending the guests of the city.

The attack was the first in a series of attacks storming of Manwan Police Training Centre by terrorists, blasts at the Rescue 1122 building, Garhi Shahu mosque, Babu Sabu stop and Moon Market on Lahore and it played havoc with the academic year of almost every educational institution within city limits. External and internal examinations were delayed or cancelled, putting the academic future of a large number of students in turmoil. The closure of all schools in the city for over a week further delayed the academic calendar for educational institutions.

Boarding students were asked to leave as all hostels ordered closed. Students from remote areas were instructed to leave their hostels immediately and were forced to return to their native areas or find accommodation in private hostels.

Renting out accommodations for students became much harder, adding to the already fragile state of the education system in the city. Various educational institutions also carried out emergency evacuation drills and held first aid exercises for their students.

Not wanting to become a target of terrorism, the Kinnaird College banned students from wearing western clothes.

The security of educational institutions in the province remained a challenge for the provincial government throughout the year. However, in collaboration with private security firms, it announced security plans for all educational institutions.

The government categorised education institutions and accordingly handed out a number of security directives to them.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met security personnel and schools administrators and directed them to form joint security commissions at educational institutions.

For the first time the local government arranged training for security guards.

The administrators of the city's educational intuitions voiced their concerns over the security situation.

Private schools where students were more concerned about security as most bomb hoax were received by private institutions, moved private schools unions to ask the local government to ensure security for them.

The number of security guards at various schools was increased. A number of national and international events were also cancelled due to security concerns in the city.

Parents also suffered as schools administrations increased tuition fees, citing heightened security-related expenses.

Parents were also forced to send their children to private academies or hire the services of private tutors to complete their courses. Daily times

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UAF head placated nervous employees
Faisalabad: The University of Agriculture Faisalabad vice-chancellor has made a U-turn by assuring the employees that none of them will be shown the door and that their cases will be forwarded to the selection boards to review the recruitment process.

Less than a fortnight ago, the syndicate meeting held on Dec 21 last with vice-chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad in the chair had declared the appointments of 63 professors, associate and assistant professors, lecturers, deputy treasurers and deputy registrars on the plea that they were made part of the academia during the days when recruitments were banned by the Election Commission of Pakistan because of the general election.

Uncertainty that prevailed in the varsity after the syndicate decision forced the vice-chancellor to call a meeting and "take the employees into confidence".

Sources quoted Dr Iqrar as saying (at a meeting with the employees arranged on a short notice) that the Punjab government had strong reservations over employment during the period of ban. He said the government had directed the UAF administration to look into the issue.

He said the administration had been advised by the legal adviser to re-advertise all vacancies to give a legal cover to the procedure for the satisfaction of the government. However, the VC said, they had decided to put all such employees on notices and their cases would be referred back to the selection boards to redo the entire process.

However, a syndicate member, Dr Anayat rejected the vice chancellor's claim that a letter had been dispatched to the university pertaining to ban on recruitments by the provincial government. He asked the VC to produce a letter if he had any to substantiate his claims.

Academic Staff Association President Dr Ashfaq Chattha asked the VC that the faculty appointed on an ad hoc or a contract basis by the present regime was also in panic. Dr Iqrar responded that only appointments of 51 employees would be redone.

On Dec 31 last, Department of Public Relations and Publications Principal Officer Dr Jalal Arif said that the university would refer the issue of all 163 employees to the syndicate to decide their fate. The university has now changed its stance owing to alleged pressure from different quarters.

It is learnt that the vice chancellor during the meeting got the microphone snatched from a syndicate member who charged the university administration with following discriminatory policy. He said the university's approach to treat the issue was wrong.

The VC also avoided to answer the question regarding fixing responsibility on the university officials who completed the appointment process when the government had stopped the university from doing so.

During the question-answer session, Dr Maqbool Dogar, quoting a decree of the apex court, said the appointments made during the election days were valid. He said no one could show the door to the university employees recruited during the election days.

Dr Manzoor said the university should resolve the issue as soon as possible and appealed to the VC to advertise the vacant posts of professors and associate professors.

Sources said the VC had earlier planned to meet those affected by the syndicate decision on Jan 1 instead of addressing the entire academic staff. The plan was changed owing to the death of a former university dean, Dr Siddique, they added.

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AIOU regional campus
Gujranwala: Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Mahmoodul Hassan Butt on Saturday laid the foundation stone of the Gujranwala regional campus (of the university) which would be completed in 18 months at a cost of Rs 125 million. Dawn

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ICBS 5th convocation
Lahore: Punjab Governor Salman Taseer has said Pakistan is facing tough times and the youth should utilise their energies for progress and development of the country.

He was speaking at the fifth convocation of the Imperial College of Business Studies (ICBS) on Saturday. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Sector Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Higher Education Commission's Executive Director Dr Sohail H Naqvi, ICBS Chairman Dr F J Seyyed, Rector Dr Azmat A Syed, graduating students and their parents attended the ceremony.

Students of various programmes such as MBA, MBA Executive and BBA were awarded degrees while those achieving distinction were awarded gold medals.

Salman Taseer said the government would not rest until it eliminated the cancer of terrorism from the country. He said in order to compete in global financial markets, Pakistani businessmen would have to adopt international business standards. Integrated business plan, best governance, accounting and reporting system besides cooperation and presentation are the most important elements for promotion of financial businesses, he said.

He said success in business was not possible without taking risks, adding only those businessmen succeeded who took full advantage of an opportunity. "Your vision should not be limited if you want to become a successful businessman," he said.

The governor said it was good to see that the number of female students pursuing higher education was on the rise adding more than 60 percent of students studying in universities of Punjab on open merit were females.

He urged students to play role in progress and development of the country, saying the new generation was in fact the country's future.

Speaking on the occasion, Begun Shahnaz Wazir Ali said the PPP government had always taken steps for promotion of higher education in Pakistan. She said late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed had introduced revolutionary reforms for promotion of science, technology and research.

Dr Sohail H Naqvi said the government was ensuring quality education adding the country was in dire need of business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Earlier, the governor gave away degrees to graduates. Dr Azmat A Syed presented the opening address. The news

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GCU laser lab inaugurated
Lahore: Renowned nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand on Saturday inaugurated the high-tech 4 MeV Pelletron Accelerator and a Laser Laboratory at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Physics of the Government College University.

Addressing the ceremony, Dr Samar said scientists in Pakistan should take notice of the country's vast indigenous resources, especially coal, copper and gold, and must work on technology for exploiting these resources. "We should not let foreigners exploit our resources and pay us peanuts in royalties," he said.

He said Pakistan had gold and copper reserves worth trillions of dollars in Balochistan, adding that gold will be cheaply available across the country if the government takes measures for its exploration. Samar also highlighted the importance of Thar coal reserves.

Commenting on terrorism in the country, Dr Samar said extremists were not Muslims. "I don't even consider them human beings," he added. Daily times

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PU VC distributed rice
Lahore: Punjab University (PU) Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran distributed rice among the low-scale employees of the varsity at VC House on Saturday. The news

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