The Vice Chancellors and Rectors of public and private sector universities across Pakistan met here on Monday and discussed the issue of rise in the incidences of intolerance being witnessed at university campuses lately. They deliberated on ways to play a proactive and leading role so that universities become real agents of positive change in Pakistani society that faces multiple challenges.
The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training and university heads from across the country. Some of them joined the sessions through video link.
Speaking on the occasion, the Minister appreciated the university heads for getting together for a national cause to deliberate on the major issue of intolerance in society, with particular reference to higher learning institutions.
Appreciating the HEC for introducing a compulsory subject on Ethics in university curricula, the Minister said, ‘We do not only need to teach Ethics as subject but also sensitize teachers on significance of the subject as well as making students realize that it is not just another subject for scoring more marks.’
The Minister said that the new National Education Policy being drafted is in final stage and will open for public comments soon. He said that in primary and secondary level curricula, specific lessons on tolerance, values, importance of team work and collaboration are being included. He also underlined the importance of sports activities for overall grooming of students.
In his inaugural address, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC emphasized the need for universities’ leadership to take practical steps for addressing the intolerance shown to their peers and engaging them, in addition to their studies, in co-curricular activities so that they make best use of their time at campuses.
The Chairman stressed, ‘You will always find them responsive if you provide them opportunities for mental and physical grooming. Talk to them, discuss their challenges and problems and you will see they would not only listen to you but take your advice in their life decisions.
Also have discussion with the faculty members about their crucial role for grooming of students as good human beings apart from producing experts in respective fields. He said that off and on these issues have been deliberated in meetings, conferences, and in interaction with media.
But now, he said it was the time to lead from the front and also motivate our faculty to take this menace of intolerance head-on and ensure, at every cost that students graduating from Pakistan’s higher learning institutions are of good character and respect fellow humans and their views even if they differ.
‘Believe me it’s not impossible, we only have to have a strong will and a clear strategy’, he remarked. He further said that steps need to be taken to maintain discipline at our campuses. ‘There was no doubt that all of us were deeply thankful to our security forces for even sacrificing lives to bring peace to this country but it is our job to defend the ideological borders of our country.’ He also urged the university heads to maintain a database of students residing in hostels and discourage anti-social activities.
The Chairman HEC also congratulated Dr Masoom Yasinzai, Rector, International Islamic University for assuming the Chair of Vice Chancellors’ Committee.
The participants of the meeting were divided into five groups with five topics for discussion and recommendations. The topics were Role of Faculty in Cubing Extremism; Role of Students in Developing Tolerance; Role of University Leaders and Administrators in Ensuring Harmony, Cultural Understanding, and Eliminating Radicalization; Policy Support for Curbing Extremism in HEIs; and Curbing Extremism through Curriculum.
After thorough deliberation, the participants came up with recommendations which were agreed upon by all the university heads to be implemented whether it is at institutional level or requires or joint effort.
The participants agreed that faculty members will be sensitized to interact with students more frequently, so as to remove disconnect between faculty and students. It was emphasized that capacity building of teachers should start right from their appointments. Further there should be a streamlined mechanism for mentoring and counselling of students.—APP