There has been virtually zero progress on several education projects the federal government had outlined for the current fiscal year. From plans for a university in the tribal areas to a technology park at NUST and from a science farming scheme to a programme for computer and science labs in Islamabad, many projects remain where they were at the start of the year, in bureaucrats’ files.
The government had allocated Rs69 billion for education in the 2014-15 budget but has done little to show for it.
Science Farming Scheme
Under the Rs100 million Science Farming Scheme, the government announced to select talent from across the country and hone their skills for the science and technology sector.
The government had planned to select the brightest 500 students from matriculation level, and support them all the way to PhDs. However, the project has not moved beyond meetings. “Yes, we have not been able to do the work we were supposed to do,” said an official at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) privy to the development.
A similar project of Rs500 million was the establishment of a technology development fund for HEC scholars returning after completing their PhDs from abroad. The fund was to support the scholars who wanted to introduce new technology and applications in the industry and development sectors.
HEC Chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said such things take time and added that work on both the projects would be completed in a few days.
Another much-talked about project was the establishment of a university in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Successive governments have been allocating funds for the project since 2002 but have not been able to agree on a site.
The government had allocated a token amount of Rs10 million for the Rs4.7 billion project.
The main hurdle to the project has been disagreement between Fata politicians as everyone wanted the university to be in their agency/region.
Another Rs10 million were allocated for the establishment of a national science and technology park at the National University of Sciences and Technology (Nust), but nothing has been done on this front too. The project was to be completed with support from the Islamic Development Bank. “Such things take time,” said the HEC chairperson.
Establishment of Seerat chairs
Another project was the establishment of Seerat chairs at public universities at the cost of Rs190 million. Ahmed said the task force has completed its work and things are being finalised in this regard.
Not much has been done for the proposed HEC regional office in Quetta as well. The Rs10 million project aimed to facilitate students from Balochistan, who currently have to travel to Karachi to get their degrees attested or send them via courier to Islamabad which can take up to a month.
Another project was to set up a university in Sibi, for which Rs35 million were allocated.
Projects in capital
The projects in the capital are also yet to see the light of day as Rs200 million were set aside for computer and science laboratories at high schools in Islamabad. Up-gradation of the National Institute of Science and Technical Education Islamabad into a university with Rs100 million was also planned. Not much has been done on either of the projects, however.
The HEC recently allowed up-gradation of the Federal Government College for Women F-7/2 into a women’s university at a cost of Rs80 million.
With less than two months left in the current fiscal year, the HEC chairperson hoped that all the pending projects will be completed before the next fiscal year.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2015.
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