The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa finance department has finally released the much-awaited funds for students of the Stori Da Pakhtunkhwa scholarship grants programme.
A notification issued by the department on Friday stated Rs331.2 million was released for the programme and will be spent by the provincial higher education and elementary and secondary education departments in the current fiscal year.
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As per the notification, the funds included Rs186.340 million for position holders and Rs144.88 million for intermediate level high achievers. The government also earmarked over Rs3.1 billion under the special initiative schemes in the annual development programme for the year 2015-16.
The programme’s name literally translates into stars of Pakhtunkhwa and it was started by the previous government to provide monthly stipends for two years to the top 20 students of the secondary school certificate and intermediate examinations across the province.
An official of the elementary and secondary education department said students who secure the top 20 positions in the SSC exams are provided Rs10,000 per month, while the students of intermediate are given Rs15,000 for the same period.”
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The official blamed the finance department for delaying the release of funds, while students and their families criticised the PTI-led administration for not taking measures to address the matter.
“My brother is eligible for the stipend, but the departments are delaying it,” said Khan Muhammad, a resident of Malakand Division. “We desperately need the money to pay the fees for the coaching academy where my brother goes for tuition.”
He added the Malakand examination board sent the list of eligible students to the education department, but it blamed finance for not releasing the amount to pay the stipend.
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Meanwhile, an elementary and secondary education department official, requesting anonymity, said there was a list of 736 students from the 2015 batch and 707 students from 2014 - all of whom will be provided the stipend.
“We have paid the stipends for the first 10 months, while the rest will be paid from the recently released funds. He added cheques will be issued to the students after formalities have been completed.
The long wait
Muhammad narrates the story of his neighbour who secured a position in the SSC examination and was listed among entitled students for the scholarship.
“The boy waited for the stipend for three months and attended classes without books which he couldn’t afford,” he said. “The father borrowed money from a shopkeeper and bought the books.”
The government is unclear about the future of the project. “It will continue only if it has funds and finds the project useful,” Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Atif Khan said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2016.