Monday, November 30, 2015

Stori da Pakhtunkhwa: Delay in scholarship grants leaves students in the lurch

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Higher Education department has failed to provide Stori Da Pakhtunkhwa Scholarship grants to students who topped educational boards. While students complain of irresponsible governance, and officials of government’s lack of interest, Stori Da Pakhtunkhwa officials say the issue lies in the increase in scholarships.

The Awami National Party (ANP) government had initiated a scholarship programme under the name Stori Da Pakhtunkhwa. Initially under this initiative, grant money would be given to the top-ten Secondary School Certificate and Higher School Certificate students respectively. This would apply to all education board across the province. The number of grants was then increased to 20 each for matric and intermediate. Each student at the intermediate level is eligible for Rs15,000 per month.
A higher education official wishing not to be named said the programme was launched successfully by the ANP government. During their tenure, students had no trouble getting their grants.
The official said the incumbent government was delaying the process, causing officers in the education and finance departments to stop issuing the stipend. This, he said, was despite allocation of funds to Stori Da Pakhtunkhwa in every budget cycle.
Students who won the scholarship visit our offices,” said the official. They call the departments daily, he added, but officials keep postponing the issue, giving students yet another date each time.
From the students
Students from Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Swat told The Express Tribune over the telephone that the main reason for delaying the grants was “an irresponsible attitude and lack of interest on part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, BISE Swat student Naeemullah Khan, who was in the top 20 intermediate students, said he was being deprived of his rights. “They should bring [Stori Da Pakhtunkhwa] to an end if the government cannot manage the scholarship scheme,” said Naeemullah.
“Poor students eagerly wait for this scholarship (but get nothing from the department).
A BISE Mardan topper, Riaz Ahmad, said they were expecting the PTI-led government would make sure the bureaucracy actually helped the public. But, Ahmad said, the PTI-led government failed to even spend the allocated amount on students who deserved it.
“We were thinking this scholarship will encourage intelligent students but the behaviour of officers in these departments is all the more discouraging.”
Ahmad demanded the provincial government and chief minister take notice of the unpaid grant money. “They need to immediately release the scholarship funds of poor students.”
Not a matric problem
Talking to The Express Tribune, BISE Chairman Muhammad Shafi Afridi said the scholarship money was being provided at the matric level. However, he said it seemed the problem lay at the intermediate level.
Afridi also requested the higher education department to release the due amount without any delay so students can continue with their studies.
The Stori da Pakhtunkhwa programme in charge comes under the higher education department. Erum, who is the programme in charge, told The Express Tribune the disbursement was delayed after they increased the number of students from top 10 to top 20.
Regarding the delay in the release of funds, Erum said all but one board gave details of students who would get the money. Only the DI Khan board did not provide details of their students. This she said delayed the entire process.
“Previous year’s grants will be given collectively in this academic year.” She said soon everyone would get their dues. Erum admitted to red-tape in the release but said problems had not been addressed for the facilitation of students.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th,  2015.



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