Red tape behind lapse of funds for scholarships

KARACHI, July 20: While the government boasts of allocating substantial funds for scholarships and bursaries, in reality financial constraints force many deserving students to abandon any hopes of higher education. In most cases, awards or financial grants are insufficiently advertised and even officials within the education department are not up to the task of providing relevant information or navigating the red tape.

This April, the Sindh department of education created an Endowment Fund worth at least Rs100 million to be used in financial aid. According to the provincial secretary for education, Sabhago Khan Jatoi, "the Endowment Fund has over Rs100 million through which we support meritorious students through scholarships in different fields."

He said that the government of Sindh has decided to initially award scholarships worth Rs15 million, a sum that can be increased to keep pace with scope and resources.

Prestigious institutions

Scholarship students can pursue their studies in a number of prestigious institutions selected by the government, including the Sindh University, Jamshoro, the Aga Khan Medical University, the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi and Sukkur, the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute for Science and Technology (Szabist) in Karachi and Larkana, the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST), Karachi, Isra University, Hyderabad, and the Institute of Business Management (IoBM), Karachi. "In addition, students from Sindh will also be sent to quality academic institutions in the Punjab and the NWFP, such as the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) and the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIK)," said Mr Jatoi.

Zero support

However, the lack of publicity about this ambitious programme means that the benefits are of no use to uncountable brilliant minds. A case in point is that of Sadia Afreen, a promising young Intermediate student at the Government Degree Science College, Malir. The daughter of a daily-wage electrician, she secured 84 per cent marks in the Grade 9 examination, 86 per cent in her Matriculation degree and 81 per cent in the HSC-I examinations.

For the past two years, however, she has been running from pillar to post in order to get a scholarship enabling her to continue her studies.

"My poor father cannot afford to allow me to continue my studies," she said. "Besides, in his view, an education up to the Intermediate level is sufficient for girls."

In view of her father's financial constraints, Ms Afreen has been trying to get a scholarship to go to college but her efforts have yielded no fruit.

She said that she first approached the ministries of education in Sindh and Islamabad but "as usual, I got no reply since I'm only a poor and helpless student." After this, she approached the provincial ombudsman who advised her to go to the regional director (colleges), Karachi, who in turn informed her that no funds were available with him and suggested that she consult the additional secretary of the Sindh department of education.

"I have filed that application and can only pray that Allah puts some mercy in the officials' hearts while they decide my case," said Ms Afreen.

According to a top official of the government of Sindh, the purpose of the endowment fund is to encourage talented students who do not have the resources to pursue their studies. Ms Afreen is both, yet the government has offered her little encouragement. Dawn


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