Head of the Communications and Media Studies department at Hazara University, Mansehra, Azam Jan juggles to schedule 14 batches in makeshift classrooms, inevitably, making use of the aisles to accommodate them all.
The university — founded in 2002 — is sprawled over a vast area in the mountainous city. But with meagre resources at its disposal, it is dependent on the development fund, which has been withheld for the last three years. The greatest setback the university suffered was in the 2005 earthquake, when all the buildings were either completely or partially destroyed except the administration block. “The shortage of space is one of the issues the whole university is facing,” Jan said.
After development work started in the city, a Turkish non-governmental organisation (NGO) arrived on the scene and announced it would build 10 new academic blocks and two hostels. The construction work took off and some of the buildings were erected when all of a sudden it was halted.
University officials said there has been no progress since the NGO packed up. “Since that day we’ve been waiting for the buildings to be completed which is essential for the university,” said Hazara University Vice Chancellor (VC) Sakhawat Shah. The VC said right after the NGO’s exit the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) took the responsibility of completing the remaining work. “But they never made good on the offer,” he added. “We’ve been forced to continue to hold classes in makeshift rooms for years,” said the VC.
According to Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mukhtar Ahmed they helped fund projects worth over Rs60 million for the varsity right after the earthquake but the rest of the work was the responsibility of ERRA which gets funding to carry out construction work in quake-hit areas.
Among those affected by government inaction is Tariq Aziz. A microbiology student at the varsity, Aziz lives with hundreds of other men in a rented accommodation where security, food quality and a healthy environment are not included in the package. “I and hundreds of other students spend over Rs15,000 a month but we are yet to experience good accommodation or hygienic food in this town,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.