ISLAMABAD: The federal government’s scheme of providing laptops to students has hit a low after it was revealed that the project has been marred by mismanagement from varsities as at some places, faculty members and employed students were facilitated by the scheme.
According to official sources, several varsities like Islamia University Bahawalpur, Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology and University of Balochistan have violated rules.
The scheme is part of Prime Minister’s Youth Programme for 2013-14 for which the Higher Education Commission (HEC) is the executing agency. HEC is to develop the criteria, mechanism, modalities and a roadmap for procurement and distribution of laptops under the scheme.
During 2013-14, 0.1 million laptops were procured for the scheme in which every student pursuing a PhD, MPhil, MS or equivalent programme of 18 years who fulfilled the eligibility criteria and were deserving on merit were to be awarded the computers.
Moreover, students studying in undergraduate and masters programmes who meet the eligibility criteria are also awarded laptops based on merit as defined on the HEC website.
The issue came under discussion in the vice chancellors’ committee meeting last week where the HEC chairperson cautioned the varsity heads about misappropriations.
According to a dossier distributed among the VC’s, it was revealed that during the distribution of laptops, some universities are not strictly adhering to the guidelines and policy defined for the distributing procedure.
A VC who attended the meeting said the prime issue was awarding of laptops to students who are employed in the varsity or have already been issued laptops.
“This (dubious distribution) led to an uproar among students and faculty who alleged discrimination in the scheme,” said a VC of a Sindh varsity, while talking to The Express Tribune.
It was in October this year when the issue also surfaced at Islamia University Bahawalpur during the distribution of laptops when some senior faculty members were among the recipients.
“It was surprising to see that senior professors were collecting laptop boxes from the varsity management,” said a PhD student of the university, requesting anonymity. Later, HEC officials present on the occasion reportedly inquired about the credentials of those employees but any official action is yet to be taken.
Interestingly, the University of Balochistan has also issued laptops to most faculty members which was highlighted when other staffers asked for the facility.
As per the HEC policy for the scheme, any person who is employed at any public or private sector cannot avail this facility.
“Unfortunately, the whole process of transparency which has been the forte of this scheme is now at stake as others have challenged that the process has not been fair,” the dossier states. The same wording has also been used in an HEC letter of November 27 which was directed to all public sector universities.
Interestingly, students who have received laptops for the second time have done so after signing a disclaimer stating that they have not received laptops before.
Reports of the scheme’s laptops being sold in the market by students who then opt for another have also been doing the rounds.
HEC to go on laptop hunt
In this regard, an independent committee has been constituted comprising officials of the Prime Minister’s Office for monitoring and evaluation which will visit every university and cross-check the record of distributed laptops, the HEC letter informs.
Besides, the HEC has also decided to approach the Federal Board of Revenue to verify the status of employed recipients of laptops against their identity cards after which they will recover laptops from those who submitted wrong information.
Regarding the selling of laptops, information technology officials at HEC say every dubious student will have to show physical proof of the laptop with the product’s serial number at the time of clearance from the varsity following the completion of degree. In case the laptop has been stolen or is missing, an FIR copy of the incident will have to be produced before the administration.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2014.