Government has drastically cut funding for education
Sept 14: The HEC is in a severe financial crunch that could force it to suspend scholarships to over 8,000 PhD scholars studying in different institutions, locally as well as abroad. The HEC is no more able to provide sufficient funds to public sector universities due to which their 203 ongoing development projects may come to a halt.
What is happening to the Higher Education Commission (HEC)? One reads of news reports that are, to say the least, very disturbing. A television network has recently been running a scroll saying that scholarship holders for higher studies overseas are not receiving their scholarships and are being forced to beg for help in mosques in foreign countries! A headline says, 'Congrats government, academicians have been made beggars'.
If this is true, and there is no reason to have doubts, then it is something to which the 'democratic' and 'popular' government must pay immediate attention. It is said that the government has drastically cut funding for education. Here are some figures:
2006-2007: Rs 33.4 billion.
2009-2010: Rs 18.5 billion (only 11 billion was released).
2010-2011: Rs 15.7 billion (not released to date).
According to the chairman of the HEC, the situation is desperate. The HEC is in a severe financial crunch that could force it to suspend scholarships to over 8,000 PhD scholars studying in different institutions, locally as well as abroad. The HEC Chairman Javaid R Laghari expressed these views at a press conference recently. Giving a loud and clear message to the federal government, he said that his organisation needed Rs 19 billion immediately otherwise the development projects currently underway in all universities across Pakistan would be shelved due to a lack of required funds. In the press conference he pointed out that the HEC is no more able to provide sufficient funds to public sector universities due to which their 203 ongoing development projects may come to a halt in the coming days.
This is likely to mean that about Rs 86 billion already invested, and the efforts of the last seven years for ongoing projects, may go waste. Most disturbing is the fact that those in trouble will be the bright scholars who are the future of the country. Where will their bitterness direct its energies? Are these youngsters going to be potential candidates for recruitment in the terror squads? Is not the anger over the destruction of the future of these bright scholars going to divert their energy into negativity? It is also likely to affect the national economic growth when the country loses its 'brains'.
According to reports, for the financial year 2010-11, only Rs 15.762 billion were allocated to the HEC against the agreed amount of Rs 30 billion. Out of this allocation, the requirement of scholarships for students already on board is around Rs 9.50 billion. As many as 61 projects that are completing this year need around Rs 0.8 billion. Projects that have been completed 80-90 percent require an additional Rs 3.5 billion for completion. In this financial year, there are currently 203 active ongoing projects for different HEC institutions. The ministry of finance and the World Bank had agreed upon funding of Rs 28 billion to promote talent and intellect in the country, but the Planning Commission applied a cut of Rs 5 billion and only approved Rs 25 billion for the HEC during the ongoing fiscal year 2010-11.
Now the HEC is going to face another major cut in the already approved Rs15.7 billion as the authorities are making the excuse of the huge amount of money that they need to spend for the relief work in the flood-affected areas. The Chairman of the HEC also smells a rat in the procedure to be adopted by the finance division for funds to be given to the HEC through the Kerry-Lugar Bill. It is a big challenge to get those funds too as the finance division will try to include them in the already approved Rs 15.7 billion while giving no extra money.
52 vice chancellors of public sector universities held an urgent meeting in which they urged the government to restore the budget to its original level of Rs 28 billion in the recurring budget and Rs 30 billion in the development budget, as was agreed by the ministry of finance for the fiscal year 2010-11. Addressing a press conference after the meeting, the VCs said that under the current circumstances it would not be possible for universities to provide the 50 percent ad hoc increase in salaries, 15 percent increase in medical allowance and 15 to 20 percent increase in pension to its employees.
Fatima Jinnah University, Peshawar University, Punjab University and Balochistan University are among the 70 universities in serious difficulty. Citing lack of provision of funds, the vice chancellors and rectors of some 52 public sector universities formally conveyed to the HEC that they were going to abandon development projects as contractors had started threatening to register cases against them in the courts due to non-payment. Universities have no funds to even repair certain lab equipment as all ongoing labs and construction are at a halt.
Dr Sohail Naqvi, Director of the HEC, said that they had taken the budget consolidation from all universities before handing over the HEC budget to the ministry of finance. Meetings also took place with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who also assured them that the budget allocation for the HEC would be increased but that never happened. In any case, the budget has been cut down, as reported by the HEC director.
The HEC is now on the brink of bankruptcy - a disaster of huge magnitude - and this time it concerns the future of the brightest brains in the nation.
An agitated sympathiser with the students' plight says, "It is time for thousands of public sector university students in Pakistan to come out onto the streets and start a civil disobedience movement against this criminal and shameless government. There is no way left for you. Lawyers, the media and doctors are all hard hit and have strikes and protests to get their desired results. It is time for you to come onto the streets and burn down this government to get your rights. No other way is left for you. Come and snatch with the blood and bones of the French Revolution!"
Is this the kind of action that the government would like to have before it realises the gravity of the situation?
By Naeem Tahir. The writer is a culture and media management specialist, a researcher, author, director and actorYour Comments
Universities to open from 15th
Islamabad: Universities in federal capital would open on September 15 after Eid holidays.
As per details, International Islamic University, Quaid-e-Azam University, Bahria University, Air University, National University of Science and Technology, Iqra University, National University of Modern Languages, Federal Urdu University, Preston University, Hamdard University, Muhammad Ali Jinnah University, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Foundation university, Allama Iqbal Open university, National Institute of Textile, and Fasion Designing and other high educational institutions would open from 15 September.
It is relevant to mention here that the universities were closed in connection with Eid-ul-Fitr holidays. Daily times