Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif handed out cash prizes worth Rs110 million to the country’s best performing students at a ceremony here on Tuesday and urged them to build a new Silicon Valley in Pakistan.
Only the youth of Pakistan can turn the country into a giver of aid rather than a receiver of one, the chief minister said in a speech at the ‘Toppers’ Convention 2012’, held to honour the students who scored the highest marks in the 2012 intermediate board exams from across the country.
Sharif said that the Punjab government had awarded some 150,000 students with laptops on merit. He hoped that this would stimulate the growth of 10,000 IT experts who would build another Silicon Valley, an area in California that is home to some of the most advanced technology companies in the world. “The revolution can only come through the youth and we have laid the foundation for that revolution,” he added.
He said that the provincial government had handed out a total of Rs550 million in cash prizes to the best-performing students in board exams over the last five years. It was giving students solar panels for their homes, because the federal government had failed to address the energy shortage. It had also built Danish Schools and IT labs in government schools, started an internship programme, and sponsored many poor students’ education through an endowment fund.
The federal government, by contrast, had not invested in education, he said. “Instead of supporting us, the federal government has created hurdles for us and opposed our initiatives for the youth,” said the chief minister. Sharif accused the federal government and its predecessor, the regime of Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf, of large-scale corruption in development projects. He asked the students to “kick out” the government led by President Asif Zardari.
The convention was scheduled to start at noon, but began a few hours late. The inauguration was signalled by the playing of ‘Choo lo aasman’, which has been adopted by the Punjab government as the official song for its youth and student initiatives. Some students put on a play about the trying times Pakistan is going through. They also sang along to the national anthem, accompanied by a sitar.
Mazda Subhan from Peshawar and Saad Mohammad Babur and Sohaib Ahmed from Mirpur spoke about how they had managed to achieve top scores in their exams. They said that the frequent power outages in their areas were a major hindrance to their studies. They thanked the Punjab government for hosting the convention.
The top students from last year’s intermediate exams, as well as parents and heads of institutions also attended the convention.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2012.