Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Scholarships for Balochistan, FATA students in jeopardy


* Hundreds of students on govt scholarship await release of funds
* Many students quitting institutions due to non-payment of fees

By Irfan Ghauri

ISLAMABAD: The government’s claims of extending special incentives for students of FATA and Balochistan – as part of its strategy to turn the tide against extremism – seem mere rhetoric as projects initiated in this regard are in jeopardy due to mismanagement and bureaucratic hurdles.

The “Quality Education Opportunities for Students of FATA and Balochistan Project”, under which hundreds of students are enrolled in elite schools across the country, is a case in point.

The project’s fate seems to be in the doldrums due to squabbling within the Ministry of Education.

Official record available with Daily Times shows that wrangling within the ministry and officials aspiring for benefits attached with the project have been hitting the enrolled students hard.

Under the Rs 481.38 million, nine-year project initiated in 2007, 330 scholarships are awarded to students from FATA and Balochistan each year for studying in cadet and technical colleges across the country.

Those selected for cadet colleges receive Rs 106,000 a year, while those selected for technical colleges get Rs 40,000 in scholarship each year.

Students quitting: So far, funds for the 2009-10 session have not been released due to the ongoing tussle between two wings of the Education Ministry.

The record of internal communication of ministry officials shows that the situation has compelled a number of students to quit studies, while others fear that they might not be able to sit for their annual exams next month if the ministry did not pay their pending dues to the institutions.

The record shows that although the ministry has funds available for immediate release, bureaucratic bickering is hindering their release to the institutions.

Earlier, officials of the Education Ministry’s Training Wing objected to cheques issued to various institutions by the project’s deputy director.

A notification was issued on February 20 this year that two officials of the Training Wing would also be co-signatories to every cheque along with the project deputy director.

The project officials have objected to the inclusion of training officials in their sphere, calling it in violation of rules and PC1 of the project.

Trans-parency in the Education Ministry’s affairs can be judged from the fact that a section officer issued a notification on April 3 notifying the additional charge of the post of project director to a female official with effect from December 7, 2009, in an apparent attempt to secure financial benefits from back dates.

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