While it lasted, the prime minister’s laptop scheme had a lot of hype around it, suggesting that some may have actually benefitted from the scheme. Personally speaking, I had a bitter experience in this regard.
I am a first year dentistry student enrolled with a public-sector dental college in Islamabad. When the laptop scheme was launched and the registration process started, all students from the campus had themselves registered.
Two days before the ceremony where the prime minister was set to start the official distribution of the laptops under the scheme, a list of the shortlisted candidates was shared with our campus by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Out of 150 students, 50 were to receive laptops during the ceremony.
All the selected students were informed and were told to be present at the ceremony if they wanted to receive their laptop. We were informed by the administration that the HEC had made it clear that if a student failed to report at the ceremony, which was to take place at the Jinnah Convention Centre in Islamabad, he or she would not get the laptop.
The academic session was in the middle of the routine summer breaks, and all students residing in the hostels, who had gone back to their hometowns for the break, were forced to come to Islamabad on a day’s notice. One of my classmates had to come from Khairpur and another from Sahiwal within a day. A senior student had to undertake a 10-hour journey from Haroonabad.
It was not easy for them to travel such long distances in such a short time. Somehow all those students managed to make it the night before the ceremony. On July 7, we reached the convention centre on time and were made to stand for two hours in the garden outside whilst it was raining.
Finally, we were allowed entrance inside after a long, rainy wait. The prime minister came and stayed for about 45 minutes during which time he handed laptops to 10-12 students, and left. The ceremony concluded and we were left shocked because we did not receive any laptop at all.
On an inquiry, our institution’s focal person told us that they were told that the laptops would be delivered to the campus and then the administration would subsequently hand them over to the students. It was heart-breaking, especially for those who came from different parts of the country as they were told that they would be receiving the laptops the same day.
Hoping to receive their laptops later, the students returned to their homes. However, they were flabbergasted when the administration shared with us an updated list from the HEC according to which only eight of the 50 students who had been shortlisted, would actually get the laptops.
I was shocked, but, more than that, my heart bled for all the students who had spent up to Rs15,000 to travel to Islamabad simply because they were promised a laptop by the government and the HEC. Their time and money had been an utter waste.
Having lived in Pakistan long enough, we know we have been scammed, but we also know that there is no point holding grudges against this or that person.
All that we, the students, want is that our institutions should consider the possibility of somehow avoiding giving such treatment to the students.
MUHAMMAD ABDULLAH KHAN