Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday distributed Rs55 million among 133 toppers of matriculation examinations.
In a ceremony that started two hours later at the CM’s Secretariat, Sharif pledged to continue working for the welfare of the people.
“If working for the people is a sin, I will commit hundreds of such sins,” he said.
The chief minister also spoke about the political opposition and the criticism he said his government faced over Danish Schools, the laptop scheme and the Metro Bus Service (the Bus Rapid Transit System).
Heads of several educational institutions, including the Government College University, the King Edward Medical College University and Kinnaird College, were also present.
The award recipients were top three position holders from all eight education boards across the Punjab in secondary examinations and 109 other toppers from across the country.
First position holders were awarded Rs400,000 and the second and third position holders Rs300,000 and Rs200,000, respectively. Heads of institutions whose students secured top three positions were awarded Rs200,000, Rs150,000 and Rs100,000, respectively.
“The state has a responsibility to provide education to all children,” Sharif said. He said it was for the fourth year the Punjab government was presenting the awards.
He said recognising the achievement of top students was a revolution [sic] in its own right.
Defending the Danish Schools scheme, Sharif said the objective was to educate children from humble backgrounds.
He said 16 Danish Schools had been built at a cost of Rs500 million each.
He said Rs10 billion had been allocated under the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund (PEEF) to provide scholarships to 35,000 children. The PEEF had also reserved quotas for AJK and GB, he said. He said the fund will facilitate students seeking to pursue higher education.
“Why should only the rich make it to reputed institutes?” he asked.
The chief minister said that more than 100,000 laptops had been distributed by to students on merit.
Sharif regretted that the Punjab was being discriminated against by the federal government, particularly in the energy sector.
“This isn’t provincialism I am talking about. These are the harsh realities,” he said.
Sharif claimed that governance in the Punjab was the most transparent in the country. He said Rs50 billion had been saved and invested in welfare projects.
He said that more than Rs28 billion had been spent on Metro Bus Service, which he said, would provide quality transport.
He said some political opponents had mocked the Punjab governments’ efforts in eradicating dengue fever and called the Sharif brothers ‘Dengue brothers’.
He said this did not bother him or his party.
The chief minister also announced that Muhammad Naeem, who topped the Multan board and had lost his house in the recent floods, would get a house in Ashiana Housing Scheme. Naeem is likely to be handed the keys to the house on Wednesday (today).
Sharif also offered to provide a house in Naeem’s hometown, Pakpattan, if he did not wish to stay in Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2012.