ISLAMABAD: Educational institutions across Pakistan are hesitant to comply with federal cabinet’s decision to double (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) FATA students’ quota.
The federal cabinet in its meeting held on March 2, 2017, under the chairmanship of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had decided that the quota of FATA students in education and health institutions in other provinces should be doubled and retained for a 10-year period after integration with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). This step was taken after mass displacement had deprived millions of students of their basic human right of education.
However, ironically the majority of educational institutions are still reluctant to implement the cabinet’s decision. The decision was taken to provide an opportunity to students from FATA to get admission in maximum number of educational institutions across the country so that the young and promising students may fall prey to extremism, illiteracy and subsequent unemployment if they were left at the mercy of the situation.
FATA has many problems but educational impediment is its greatest nightmare. Educational poverty supersedes all poverties here. There are number of ghost schools, lack of modern and even traditional teaching facilities coupled with absence of a medical, engineering or tangible vocational institute, which can take back FATA to dark ages.
Militancy is a great bulwark in the way of education, as millions of people were forced to live a life of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps and number of schools were destroyed by the militants others are closed due to frail security.
According to FATA Research Centre report, a total of 458 schools were destroyed in the once militancy-plagued region of which 317 were of boys while 141 were girls’ schools.
Following the cabinet’s decision, in April 2017, the Higher Education Commission (HEC), in its letter addressed to all vice chancellors wrote, “That quota of FATA students in education and health institutions in other provinces should be doubled and retained for a 10-year period after integration with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
“It is requested that necessary steps for implementation of Cabinet Decision may kindly be taken,” the notification further read.
Accordingly, Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) nominated students to various educational institutions as per decision of the cabinet.
However, the educational institutions both public and private refused to entertain the FATA students, who eventually complained to Senator Hilal-ur-Rehman, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions.
Hilal-ur-Rehman took an instant action and wrote to the Chairman HEC regarding noncompliance of the federal cabinet decision.
The senator, in a letter, available with Pakistan Today, addressed to Chairman HEC stating; “It was brought to my notice that most of the colleges and universities including Government College Faisalabad, University of Gujrat, University of Sargodha, National College of Arts Lahore… are not complying with the decision of the federal cabinet.”
Rehman in his letter further stated a huge number of students belonging to FATA were approaching him, requesting for their admissions against FATA reserved seats.
“I’m contacting the quarter concerned but due to limited seats a large number of applications are being rejected,” the letter referring to students who were seeking admission to country’s leading universities stated.
The letter further stated that point 12 of the National Action Plan (NAP) was administrative and development reforms in FATA with immediate focus on repatriation of IDPs; and in these circumstances, the federal cabinet decided to double the quota for students of FATA in the educational institutes throughout the country.
It stated that now that the IDPs’ return to their homes was nearing completion, the senator feared a drift to illiteracy and dropouts from educational institutes of the students going back to FATA, owing to largely destroyed educational infrastructure.
He said that if students from FATA were not provided educational facilities in other parts of the country according to the decision of the federal cabinet as an emergency measure, the young and promising students may fall prey to extremism, illiteracy and subsequent unemployment.
“The decision of the federal cabinet regarding increase of FATA reserved seats in the educational institutions shall be implemented in letter and spirit so that maximum number of students from FATA can get admission,” it stated.
According to the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS), a total of 736,929 children are out of schools from Primary to Higher Secondary in FATA.
Primary: 33,343 (145,772, 179,114 female)
Middle: 90,089 (130,011, 220,100 female)
High: 68,350 (88,044 male 156,394)
Higher Sec. 88,439 92,882, 181,321 female)
When this scribe contacted, Waseem Khaliq Dad Deputy Director (Media/Publications) HEC said that the HEC circulated the letter regarding cabinet decision to double FATA students’ quota in all educational institutions across the country.
He said that the public sector educational institutions showed willingness to consider the decision, while the private said that there are following open merit policy.
He said that so far 75 public sector universities and 38 private educational institutions have submitted their responses in this regard.
He said that some of the public universities have already doubled the seat for FATA students and another put the issue before their respective statutory bodies or syndicates.
Wasim said that they public sector institutes assured that as soon as the concerned statutory bodies or syndicate gave approval to the decision they would instantly double the seats.
However, as per the private educational institutions are concerned, he said that though they did not refuse to double the quota of FATA students altogether, they were of the view that there are open merit policy.