HEC devolution and World Bank loan

Devolution may deprive HEC of $300m WB loan
Islamabad, March 28: What could be termed as the first and the worst setback of devolution is the fact that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) would lose $300 million loan approved by the World Bank (WB) to support its various programmes for the next five years.

The $300 million equivalent credit for the tertiary education support project was supposed to finance the government's tertiary education development programme that would leverage an estimated investment of approximately Rs1.7 billion in additional resources from the government.

According to sources, the loan deal would automatically come to an end after the devolution of the HEC because of some legal implications. "There is a clause in the agreement between the WB and HEC that any change in the legal status of the HEC would end the agreement at once," said HEC Executive Director Dr. Sohail Naqvi.

The loan that has been committed by the WB is called the International Development Association (IDA), which is given to the poorest and most sought after by many developing countries. For the tertiary education project, 110 million dollars of the IDA credit would carry a 0.75 per cent service charge fee, maximum commitment charges at 0.5 per cent, a 10-year grace period, and maturity of 35 years.

It is not for the first time that the HEC has been granted a loan by the WB, but a year ago the World Bank has given a soft loan of $100 million to the Government of Pakistan for the progress of higher education sector. It is pertinent to mention here that the HEC met the criteria set by the World Bank, which in its report prepared by Shahid Kardar, termed the performance of the HEC 'highly satisfactory'.

Keeping in view the utilisation of money of previous loan, the WB has once again granted the loan with conditions to meet various targets that mainly include increase in the number of scholarships, increase in the number of publications, easy accessibility to the academic institutions, improvement in quality of education and also an increase in the number of tenure track teachers.

However, according to some experts, the decision regarding the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has apparently been taken to cut off the huge amount of Rs30 billion from the upcoming budget, as the provincial governments would be asked to meet the expenditures of higher education sector from the money they would get through the NFC.

According to experts, the HEC could have been saved from devolution by utilising the provisions given under the Federal Legislative List (FLL) Part 2, however; it has been devolved despite severe criticism to shed the heavy amount that the federal government has to allocate for the HEC budget.

"It was what actually the government wanted to do. First, they tried to do it by slashing its budget though we managed to survive and now they have chosen the way of devolution," said and insider requesting anonymity.

The source, however, believed that the provincial governments were having some strong misconceptions regarding the HEC budget. "The provincial governments are probably thinking that they would get the HEC budget and also the amount of the WB loan in addition to the amount they would get through the NFC. In reality, they would be getting nothing but just the NFC money," a source revealed.

"Yes, I believe that budget was another issue. They are considering the amount allocated for the HEC every year but they are not aware of the massive development that takes place in the higher education sector every year. They need to realise that the budget of the HEC is not expenditure but an investment," said Dr. Sohail Naqvi.

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A student with Tamgha-e-Shujaat
Rawalpindi: Huzaimah Amin, a student of first year in Military College, Jhelum, who was awarded 'Tamgha-e-Shujaat' for courage, cool composure and altruism that saved many precious lives, is a shining example of outstanding intrepidity under extreme peril.

According to the citation, he is residing with his father Brigadier Muhammad Amin in Parade Lane, Rawalpindi Cantonment. On December 4, 2009, around 1315 hours Huzaimah Amin went to the Parade Lane mosque to offer 'Juma' prayers. Approximately at 1332 hours, Imam Sahib finished his 'Juma' sermon and allowed the congregation to offer pre-'Juma' Sunnahs. Huzaimah was in the process of offering Sunnah once he heard a loud explosion, saw grisly harbingers of the macabre terrorist attack, followed by indiscriminate firing and grenade thronging on the innocent 'namazis'.

Immediately the panic gripped the inmates of the mosque as they ran instinctively for cover and safety. Out of the two escape routes, the main staircase came under immediate attack of terrorists who were throwing grenades and firing with automatic weapons, the only safe escape route that lay open was to jump from one corner of the rooftop of bathrooms roof located behind. In a frenzied bid to escape, the elder persons milled around the rooftop corner and started jumping across the parapet onto the bathroom roof. The young children however lay motionless in a state of shock and were visibly dazed by the spectacle unable to run for safety.

Huzaimah Amin sensed the vulnerability of these stranded children and in a supreme display of steel nerves, superior altruism and highest sense of sacrifice, decided in a blink to stay back to help the children instead of running for his own life.

Meanwhile, a terrorist came up and lobbed 7 to 8 hand-grenades along with indiscriminate firing resulting in injuries/deaths of several persons. This further terrified the young children. All through this hour of the greatest peril Huzaimah kept his wits about and in a supreme display of valour was able to instantly deflect few unexploded grenades hurled toward the children. This daring act with a self-immolating zeal saved many precious lives, mostly of the young children.

During this frighteningly critical period he retained his composure and gallantly escorted the young children towards the escape route, helping them over the parapet one by one. His heroic rescue attempt led six trapped children to their safety. After rescuing them from the mosque and the bathroom roof, he continued helping the children climb up the rear wall of the mosque. During the process, Huzaimah also assisted General (r) Muhammad Yousaf Khan, ex-vice chief of the army staff, who was facing difficulty in climbing the wall due to a fractured arm, to get away from the carnage scene.

In view of his outstanding bravery and sense of highest degree of self-sacrifice, he has been awarded 'Tamgha-e-Shujaat'.

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Pakistani student to get
Islamabad: It would not be wrong to say that Pakistan is the land of all extremes. One good example is that fact that on one hand, we are pondering deep to understand reasons behind the fall of Pakistan film industry where as on the other hand, a young Pakistani boy is winning laurels for his short film in the international film market and not many people know about that.

We are talking about 'Heal', a short film that has never been shown in Pakistan. Written and directed by Mian Adnan Ahmad, 'Heal' will be honoured with the 'Frank Capra Award' at a film festival in Fallbrook California this April. Frank Capra Award is the festival's highest award given to the film that best uplifts the human spirit, as Capra's films did so eloquently.

'Heal' tells the story of a young boy whose special gifts enable him to help his beloved teacher rise above the shattering effects of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan to recapture hope. The short film also shifts the spotlight from war politics and terrorism in Afghanistan to the long forgotten angle that there are men, women and children living in those areas that have their feelings, emotions and urge to live in peace.

Originally written by Adnan for a thesis project at Chapman University, the story revolves around an Afghan boy Azeem, who possess supernatural powers of healing. The orphan boy, despite ongoing war in his area, never misses his school. The war destruction and misery failed to supersede his urge to appreciate the nature, a lesson he learnt from his teacher, Abdul Kaka.

One day, when he stayed home to complete his homework instead of attending a wedding, his village was attacked by a missile killing his mother and many loved ones. The scenes of devastation made a small part of the whole story, but they were filmed so skilfully that they gave an everlasting impact to the minds of audience.

The boy lost everything, but still he wanted to save his teacher and his school as it may be was the only hope of better future for him. Abdul Kaka was dying and Azeem was not able to arrange any medical help for him. It was then when the boy realised his healing power and made his teacher to recover, but he himself died in the process.

In one of his interviews, Adnan said that his experiences while making a documentary on children affected by a major earthquake that hit Pakistan gave him a real glimpse of what destruction could do to children. "This along with a constant awareness of the conflict the region is in today and seeing the hunger for education in the rural areas formed the basis for my need to tell a story such as 'Heal'," he said.

Adnan said that he always wanted to write a story about a boy with supernatural powers. He said that combining his concept with the conflict situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan's border area was a real challenge but it worked out well at the end. "As a team of young filmmakers we were motivated to tell a story that allowed audiences to connect at a human level with people living in these areas of conflict and 'Heal' provided us with an opportunity to achieve the same." He said that 'Heal' is based on a short story he wrote during his first year at Chapman. "Over the period of time with input from the faculty and fellow filmmakers, it developed into the short film it is today. It was an ambitious project to start with, but with the talents and commitment of everyone, backed by the support of our key faculty and people from the local Afghan and Pakistan communities, we hope that 'Heal' justifies that ambition."

Adnan said that Frank Capra was a multiple Oscar winning director himself. "It's a great feeling as a Pakistani to be associated with his work. I am hoping to be able to make it and receive the award in person," he added.

The short film has already brought pride for the country as it was nominated in five categories at the annual CECIL Awards ceremony held in the US, winning in four, including 'best picture'. 'Heal' was also one of only six films selected for an exclusive screening as part of the First Cut showcase being held at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) headquarters in Los Angeles, USA.

The short film was also screened at the Oscar eligible 34th Cleveland International Film Festival March 2010 in the US where it won the Jesse Epstein Humanitarian Award. Other than this, from among 152 short films, it received the second highest number of votes in the Audience Choice award category. It was competing against some really good films, including the Oscar nominated short film Miracle Fish.

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AIOU's B.Ed workshop
Islambad: Rawalpindi Regional Campus of Allama Iqbal Open University will hold a workshop for the last group of B.Ed programme for the Autumn Semester 2010 from today (Monday). Director Regional Campus (Rawalpindi) Malik Touqir Ahmed Khan said that the AIOU has set up separate centres for males and females.

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Technical talk on 'unmanned aerial systems' held at NUST
Islamabad: A technical talk on 'Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) - An Overview of Various Technological Systems' was organised by the NUST Science Society here at the School of Chemical and Materials Engineering, NUST, says a press release.

Fahad Aman Khan and Miss. Amina Malik, two Design Engineers from SATUMA (Surveillance and Target Unmanned Aircraft) delivered lecture on the occasion. Both the speakers carry a remarkable academic record and were recipient of National Youth Award from Ministry of Youth Affairs in Science and Technology and were recipient of postgraduate scholarships for Joint European Masters and Cranfield University, UK respectively.

Addressing the over a 100 audience, Fahad Aman Khan introduced UAS systems and modules. "Agricultural, environmental and meteorological applications of UAS have been a focus of NASA and had been producing results on cheaper than satellite surveillance system", he shared in his talk. Later, Miss. Amina Malik talked about design frames, power requirements, avionics, design and manufacturing of UAS.

Dr. Mohammad Mujahid, faculty advisor of the NUST Science Society, later thanked the audience and distinguished guests. This was followed by an interactive question and answer session.

A funny video about the failure of UAV systems was much enjoyed by the participants. TechTalk is a regular feature of NUST Science Society which includes guest speaker session (s) by motivated engineers, young scientists and researchers in the scientific fields of interest.

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Thesis show at Iqra University
Islamabad: The colourful and unique annual display of the thesis by the graduating students of Iqra University pulled a huge crowd in the university campus.

As many as seven students of textile designing participated in the thesis show and staged their products of different variety on the occasion. Each student has a different theme so the amalgamation of diverse themes in one show itself was a unique idea that was greatly appreciated by the visitors.

On the interesting theme that was displayed during the thesis was by Rabail Baber on 'Celtic Art', which is ornamental, avoiding straight lines and only occasionally using symmetry, without the imitation of nature central to the classical tradition, often involving complex symbolism.

'Celtic Art' has used a variety of styles and has shown influences from other cultures in their knotwork, spirals, key patterns, lettering, zoomorphics, plant forms and human figures.

The other participants included the names of Nida Bashir who worked on 'Optical Crop Art', Tayyab Manzoor on 'Mavan Art', Ammar Amjad on 'Folk Toys of Pakistan', Arooj Shahid on 'Mola and Guatemalan textiles', Arfa Parveen on 'Handicraft of Pakistan' and Zainab Toor on 'Multani Art'.

It was for the first time that the Iqra University held the thesis display of such a magnitude. There were huge variety of items displayed on the occasion that included Shidori sculptures, dinning table settings, garments, jewellery, spa and home textile.

Rabia Haris Khan and Faisal Waheed was the supervisor of the thesis display.

Rabia Haris Khan said that the art and design department at Iqra University emphasises excellent personalised teaching and provides services that address the needs of students of diverse ages and backgrounds; they are encouraged to participate and organise exhibitions, fairs, fashion shows, study trips and interact with the industry.

"Through work placements and research projects the students get first hand experience of working with some of the biggest names in the fashion and textile industry of Pakistan," she added.

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SS Montessori organises lively annual day
Rawalpindi: Students of the SS Montessori enthralled the audience, mainly comprising their parents, with their impressive presentations during the annual day at the Rawalpindi Arts Council.

The uniqueness of the event was giving an opportunity to every child from Playgroup to KG-II to participate in stage performance to express their talent. The children enthralled the audience with their outstanding performances on tunes of national songs and poems besides a tableau.

The function started with the recitation of Holy Qur'aan by students followed by its translation in English and Urdu.

Dr. Sajid Hussain Awan, an educationist from SZABIST, was invited as chief guest. He said that a good institution having able teachers always plays an important role in grooming and character-building of children.

SS Montessori Director Dr. Shoaib Bin Naeem said since inception of the institution in 2005, it is considered as best among similar academic institutions of twin cities. "We pay equal attention to enhancing capabilities of children through academic and creative activities inside and outside the classroom," he said.

SS Montessori Principal Saima Shoaib presented a brief report of the school. In the end, students were given certificates and shields by the chief guest. The news

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