Tale of neglect: The deplorable state of Sindh’s higher educational system

Vacant posts, lack of funds, mismanagement, administrative failure, Sindh higher education is plagued by all

Safdar Rizvi June 02, 2019

KARACHI: Despite the tall claims of the Sindh Education Department to improve the higher education and examination sector, the system has been in shambles for quite some time. To top it off, the so-called ‘education emergency’ imposed in the province on the orders of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, has failed to produce any positive results.

Information gathered by The Express Tribune has revealed that out of the 24 public universities in Sindh, eight have been operating without vice chancellors, 14 have also been running without director finance, while at least four universities have not become operational due to a lack of interest on the part of the provincial government.

At least 14 of the universities were found to be operating without a finance director. As of the filing of this report, the universities in question have not admitted any students and are still awaiting the start of their first academic sessions.

For the past four years, all seven educational boards of Sindh have been without secretaries and examination controllers. Similarly, the educational boards are operating without funds from the government. The provincial government’s department for universities and boards, which was set up to manage higher education, has not been functional either. Consequently, the department has not been able to resolve issues in public universities and improve the performance of higher educational institutions.

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The Express Tribune  learned that several public sector universities in Sindh, including Shaikh Ayaz University Shikarpur, Nusrat Bhutto University for Women Sukkur, Government College University Hyderabad, Lyari University Karachi, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University of Law Karachi, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Benazirabad (Nawabshah), Peoples Medical University for Women Nawabshah and Veterinary University Sakrand, are without a permanent vice chancellor.

In these institutions, the responsibilities of the vice chancellor have been entrusted to the heads of some other universities or former VCs who have already completed their official tenure.

Last year, Nusrat Bhutto University for Women was established in Sukkur and its charge was handed over to Dr Parveen Munshi - the vice chancellor for the University of Sufism and Peace in Bhit Shah. As of now, the position for the vice chancellor for Nusrat Bhutto University rests with Dr Parveen. Besides, the Nusrat Bhutto University has not become functional until now and the University of Sufism has not started its operations yet either. Nusrat Bhutto University has not even advertised the position of the vice chancellor.

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It was also learned that two universities have to be made functional in government school buildings while Nusrat Bhutto University does not have a building yet.

On being contacted, Parveen Munshi informed The Express Tribune that the project of Sukkur University is under way and its PC-I has been approved while the construction work of its building has also been started.

The finance director at Shaheed Benazirabad University has been given the additional charge of director finance at Sukkur University. However, the university requires a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to commence the session and begin admission process. The HEC team has not visited the university either.

Munshi also shared that a government school building is being acquired with the permission of the Sindh Education Department and orders have been given to start Sukkur University therein with immediate effect. The grant of the university has not been received from the Sindh government yet. Some funds are expected to be released by June 2019.

Replying to a question, Munshi said that since the syndicate has not been formed, therefore, admissions in the university cannot be granted.

Munshi explained that admissions at Sufi University Bhit Shah will begin in July and the HEC has also visited the university, so the NOC is expected to be issued soon. However, she informed that the HEC has raised an objection, saying that the university should have its own building instead of utilising schools.

However, despite efforts, these universities have not been able to acquire government land. As a result, the Talpur family has granted a 10-acre land to the university where construction will begin shortly.

She shared that the syndicate of the varsity has been formed but owing to the absence of a building, the university will initially operate in a 12-room government school.

Shedding light on HEC’s support for the new varsity, Parveen said that the commission is not extending any support because it does not have funds for new universities.

The case of the VCs

IBA Sukkur Vice Chancellor Dr Nisar Siddiqui has been given the additional charge of Sheikh Ayaz University - which was earlier the Shikarpur campus of Shah Latif University.

Nearly a month back, Siddiqui had written a letter to the Sindh government and requested to withdraw his name from Sheikh Ayaz University Shikarpur. However, despite a month, the Sindh government neither took back the additional charge from him nor took any steps to depute a new VC.

The syndicate of the varsity has not been formed and the existing administrative structure is inadequate. However, based on the old Shikarpur campus, students have been granted admission to the new university.

On being contacted, the IBA Sukkur’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr Nisar Siddiqui confirmed that the syndicate of the varsity has not been formed yet. Moreover, the Sindh government has not approved the panel of the nominated candidates sent by the university.

Siddiqui also mentioned that the PC-I for the construction of the university building may be approved in the next budget.

Professor Ahmed Hussain Shah was appointed for Shah Abdul Latif’s Shikarpur campus, but he is now working for Sheikh Ayaz University. Sources told The Express Tribune that Shah will retire soon.

Professor Dr Nasiruddin Sheikh, principal of Kali Mori College established within the varsity, has assumed the VC position at the Government College University Hyderabad.

The syndicate of the varsity has been formed and the names of the acting VCs have been sent. Still, the Sindh government has not issued the allocated budget to the university because of which the admission process has not begun.

The Sindh government established Lyari University almost a decade back and the present VC of the university, Professor Dr Akhtar Baloch has completed his tenure. According to the university law, he can be re-elected as VC for a second term. The acting VC of the varsity has been appointed as the permanent VC for the next term while no ad for permanent VC had been published. This varsity is also hit with adhocism for the past several months. There is neither a controller nor any registrar.

The first VC of the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto University (SZABIST) of Law, Justice (retd) Qazi Khalid also continued to serve as the acting VC for nearly 18 months after completing his tenure.

Ignoring the law, the Sindh government appointed him as the VC for the next term and didn’t appoint any permanent VC. Finally, Justice (retd) Qazi Khalid was appointed as the chairperson for Federal Service Tribunal. After which, the charge of the university was handed over to a senior faculty member. No permanent VC, however, has yet been appointed.

Similarly, the position of VC has been lying vacant at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University after the former VC Arshad Saleem resigned in October 2018. Tayyaba Zareen, the dean of the university is currently holding the charge of VC.

The ad for the appointment of the VC has been published, however, candidates haven’t been interviewed yet. It’s been nearly eight months since the university is operating without a VC.

Peoples Medical University for Women Nawabshah VC Azam Yousufani has also completed his tenure. First, he was allowed to work as an acting VC and an ad for permanent VC was published. At present, however, the dean, Dr Gulshan Memon, has been given the charge of VC.

Vacant posts

There are at least 14 such government universities that have vacant positions for “director finance”, a post deemed most important after VC. However, junior officers have been given the charge of director finance. According to the Universities Act, only the Sindh government has the authority to appoint the VC as well as the director finance. However, the government is not willing to perform its obligation.

Only NED, Mehran, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Nawab Shah, Quaid-e-Awam University Nawabshah, IBA Karachi have director finances while the post is lying vacant in 14 universities.

The provision of funds to the varsities by the Sindh government is also an important problem. Out of Rs5 billion, nearly 50% of funds allocated for Sindh varsities for the current fiscal year were initially issued. At present, Rs1.849 billion remains unreleased.

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Lack of funds, officials affect performance of boards

The conditions are even worst at the provincial educational boards. Reports of maladministration, corruption and tampering of results in examination boards, especially Karachi’s Intermediate Board, have become common. According to a recent report prepared by the Sindh government, chairperson, audit officers and others working in the department were directly responsible for maladministration of the board’s affairs. The universities and boards department has failed to check this ongoing maladministration.

All of the seven educational boards of Sindh lack permanent secretaries and controllers of examinations. All educational boards are now headed by junior officers after the retirement of the senior officers while these posts have remained vacant for years.

Advertisements for controller examinations in various boards, including Board of Intermediate Education Karachi, Board of Secondary Education Karachi, Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Hyderabad, Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Sukkur, Board and Intermediate and Secondary Education Mirpur Khas, Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Larkana and Sindh Board of Technical Education Karachi were published again in March this year.

The same advertisement was published about a year ago. However, after a lapse of two months, there was no update as to the scrutiny of the candidates and their interview calls.

In Karachi’s Intermediate Board, the controller examination post is assumed by an officer who is personally facing inquiry for cases by the anti-corruption department. He is also overseeing the preparation of pre-engineering and pre-medical results of intermediate exams in Karachi. However, the Sindh government seems to have made no progress in filling up the vacant posts of the board.

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Another issue faced by educational boards of Sindh relates to lack of funds as the provincial government has asked them to stop collecting a fee from students of government institutions. In April 2017, Sindh government notified all educational boards of the province to stop collecting enrollment and examination fee from matric and intermediate students in government institutions while promising to make up for their shortfall later.

The charge for the secretary of universities and boards is currently held by senior officer Riazuddin, who has also been given the additional charge of Sindh’s HEC chair. He joined the post of secretary on December 26, 2018, and during the five months in office, he has not been able to publish advertisements for vacant posts of vice-chancellors of the universities, director finance, secretaries of education boards and their examination controllers. The officers who preceded him also could not make any progress in filling the positions for many years.

Riazuddin maintains that funds of the universities and educational boards will be released by the finance department after approval from CM Sindh and efforts are being made to expedite the process.

Commenting on the vacant seats in educational boards, he said the scrutiny process for the job applications has not been completed yet. It may take another month before the scrutiny is completed, after which, candidates will be called for interviews.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2019.

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