HEC funds & Degrees' re-verification issue

Release funds to HEC or face protest again, govt told
Islamabad, Sept 25: The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) on Friday threatened that boycott of classes and countrywide protest demonstrations would be started on October 5, if the government failed to release agreed funds to the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Addressing a press conference here, FAPUASA central president Prof. Dr. Saeed Akhtar Mehr said the government should immediately release funds as agreed between the government functionaries and representatives of the vice chancellors. "The government should show with its act that it is interested in promotion of higher education that is necessary to embark the country on the path of progress and prosperity," he added.

He said the government should remove all retired army officers, bureaucrats and teachers from the posts of vice chancellors and appoint competent persons to give boost to the education sector. He said that 250 students were selected for foreign scholarships but unfortunately they have now been told that HEC would not be able to sponsor them due to lack of funds. "These students must be sent for studies on foreign scholarships as our universities already lack highly educated teachers," he added.

Categorically rejecting the proposal of raise in fee structure in the public sector universities, he said it would make higher education unaffordable for the students who belong to middle and lower middle class. He said, "proposal to raise fee structure is totally anti-student and anti-education and it would cause grave damage to our education system."

He questioned why the government not reducing expenditures of ministers and divert these funds towards the education sector. "It is highly regrettable that billions of rupees are being spent to facilitate ministers but when it comes to the education sector, the government shows its inability to provide funds for the development projects," he said.

Prof. Dr. Saeed Akhtar said when HEC was established in 2002, it was agreed that its annual fund would be increased by 30% every year but now the finance minister is presenting a different 'theory' and trying to curtail its funds.

He said that the finance minister issued an irresponsible statement in which he alleged that teachers are using students for their personal interests. "The finance minister should immediately take back his statement otherwise we would protest against him and demand his resignation," he said.

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HEC may not press for degrees' re-verification
Islamabad: Lethargic attitude of university administrations is likely to force the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to hand over previously verified degrees to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) without further insisting for their re-verification in line with a formula in which provision of degree supplementary forms is necessary for the elected representatives, sources told this scribe here on Friday.

Sources said that a high-level meeting would be held on Monday under the chairmanship of HEC Chairman Dr. Javed Laghari in which they would deliberate upon the proposal of handing over all previously verified degrees to the ECP instead of pressing for their re-verification by universities.

An official said that the HEC showed dissatisfaction over the previous verification process and directed all public sector universities to re-verify degrees of the elected representatives in line with the formula envisaging provision of degree supplementary form, copy of computerised national identity card and copies of matriculation, intermediate and graduation certificates.

"Only 437 degrees have so far been verified after introduction of the new formula and there are still 658 degrees which are yet to be verified by universities. So we will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss what to do keeping in view the current situation," he said.

The official refused to confirm that a decision has been taken in principle not to press for re-verification of the remaining degrees and said: "The decision will be taken in the forthcoming meeting."

Sources said that the HEC extended the deadline for verification of degrees time and again and now it would not further extend it from September 25 to any other date so it is unlikely to wait anymore for re-verification of the remaining degrees by universities.

According to official data, 437 degrees have so far been re-verified out of which 387 are genuine and 50 fake, while 15 elected representatives have moved courts regarding authentication of their degrees.

HEC's focal person Rahim Bux Channa told this scribe that they have directed the universities time and again to complete the verification process and gave various deadlines but the process was still likely to take more time.

"I do not know whether the deadline of September 25 for completion of verification process would be extended but we would discuss it in the meeting scheduled for next week. It is unlikely that the universities would complete verification of degrees till 25th so it is an issue to be discussed by the HEC high-ups," he said.

HEC Chairman Dr. Javed Laghari confirmed that the degree issue would be discussed in the meeting to be held on Monday but "any decision about this issue would be taken after a detailed discussion in the meeting." The news

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Teachers warn of another strike if salary not raised
Islamabad: The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA) warned the government on Friday to immediately release funds so that university teachers could get their increased salaries at the end of the month. Also on Friday, office-bearers of the federation headed by its President Prof Dr Mahr Seed Akhtar said they would go for another countrywide strike from Oct 5.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the federation's executive committee, Dr Akhtar said they had formally withdrawn their call for strike and a planned sit-in outside the Parliament House on Saturday as a goodwill gesture for the acceptance of their demands by the government.

However, he cautioned Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh that if university teachers didn't get their salary in accordance with the the government decision with 65 per cent increase, the federation would go for a new strike from Oct 5. And this time it would be for an indefinite period, he added.

After a countrywide strike by teachers of state-run universities on Wednesday the government accepted their main demand about an increase in their salary.

In the federal budget of the current financial year, the government had announced a 50 per cent increase along with 15 per cent medical allowance for government employees. But, because of financial constraints, 90 per cent of public sectors universities were unable to pay their faculty members their salary with the increment.

He criticised both Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Education Minister Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali for what he called their apathetic attitude towards education and demanded their resignation for making derogatory remarks against the teachers' community.

At a recent press conference Sardar Assef had accused university teachers of bringing students to roads for the sake of their salary. And during a meeting with vice chancellors' committee, Dr Sheikh said that flood-affected people were more vulnerable than teachers.

He also criticised the government for according a low priority to the education sector, saying the government had reduced the education budget from 2.2 per cent to 1.6 per cent despite that its proclamation in the Educational Policy 2009 that the education budget would be gradually increased in coming years.

The children of parliamentarians and bureaucrats go abroad for higher studies, so they were not concerned about the public sector universities where people from the poor and underprivileged income group and middle class families sent their children for education.

He said earlier that the government had committed with vice chancellors that no budgetary cuts would be imposed on HEC, but it was doing otherwise. He said that IMF and World Bank were forcing the government for making such policies to make the education out of the reach of the poor and destroy the education sector of the country.

The federation also demanded removal of all retired army officers, bureaucrats and retired professors from posts of vice chancellors and pro-vice chancellors of government universities. They said that quality education could only be achieved by resolving teachers' problems. Dawn

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