Reforming higher education of Balochistan
BALOCHISTAN is contributing 44% of land and 6% of Population in the total territory and people of Pakistan respectively.
The province is blessed with numerous natural resources and talented masses. Unfortunately, it is the least developed and crises ridden administrative unit due to continuous years of skirmishes, conflicts and neglect.
In this context, various conspiracy theories have also accelerated the already ridden state of uncertainty and under-development.
However, plentiful steps are taken to uplift and reform the deplorable condition of the province and bring it at par with other provinces.
In this scenario, the developmental process encompasses many departments of the province.
Among them, reforming Higher Education of Balochistan carries a prominent place. Historically, since the partition to 2002, Balochistan had only two public sector universities.
Today, the province managed to build and operate independent and versatile universities. The institutions also managed to establish thirteen campuses in various districts of Balochistan to help students of far-flung areas to equip themselves with the best of knowledge.
Generally, the higher education sector of Balochistan consists of universities and inter/degree colleges.
Universities seek guidance from HEC and approval from Provincial Assembly. On the other hand, colleges work under the umbrella of Government of Balochistan.
Colleges are further distributed into intermediate colleges, cadet colleges, residential colleges, technical and graduate colleges.
According to statistics, there are 5 residential colleges, seven cadet colleges, 49 graduate colleges and 86 intermediate colleges in the Province.
To improve the infrastructure and management, Higher Education Commission (HEC) has provided more than Rs 32 billion to the higher education sector of Balochistan till date.
Moreover, Balochistan Education Sector Plan 2020-2025 has planned to invest 21.10% of total education budget to higher education.
Apart from financial and administrative assistance, HEC has also contributed in awarding the scholarships to the people of Balochistan.
The scholarships compose of overseas and indigenous PhDs and graduate and undergraduate programmes.
In this context, total of 3,750 scholarships have been allotted, out of which 1937 have already been utilized by the students and teachers of Balochistan.
Moreover, the federal government has started fee imbursement schemes (PM Fee Reimbursement Scheme (PMFRS) and Ehsaas Scholarship Program) to lessen financial burden on poor students of the province.
And to equip the scholars with latest technology, the government has also initiated laptop distribution scheme for both graduate and undergraduate students.
On the other hand, Government of Balochistan has also introduced fee reimbursement arrangement under the umbrella of Balochistan Education Endowment Fund (BEEF).
Under such programmes, more than 30,000 students of Masters, MPhil and PhD have benefited from it.
HEC is also on the way to help the higher education sector of Balochistan in the fields of information Technology and innovation.
In this context, HEC has commenced a program under the name of Pakistan Education & Research Network.
The project intends to facilitate universities in arranging video conferencing, establishment of digital library, free Microsoft access and availability of free WiFi in all public sector universities.
The project also intends to extend such facilities to the respective sub-campuses of varsities.
In addition, HEC has also funded the construction of two study centres and one centre of excellence in the University of Balochistan.
While compiling the infinite services of HEC and GoB in developing the higher education of Balochistan, there is still a bottle-neck in the shape of weak primary educational base of students to achieve the desired goals in the said sector.
The primary and secondary education shows a miserable picture of poor literacy status, lack of facilities and out of school children.
In addition, lack of resourceful teachers and check and balance has weakened the overall output of the education sector.
Such state of misfortune has resulted in a fragile educational background of students. Ironically, they even fail to get the indigenous and foreign scholarships.
Therefore, such sectors need the focus of the government on a priority basis. Because an educated and empowered Balochistan will translate into prosperous and stable Pakistan.
—The writer is research officer, Balochistan Think-Tank Network, based in Quetta.