I think that the Higher Education Commission is doing a commendable job, being an institution handling all higher education affairs in Pakistan. Every institute can improve itself and I have two suggestions for the HEC. Everyone knows that attestation of documents, for submission to foreign institutions for getting admission, is the job of HEC. Initially HEC was charging Rs 200 for each original and Rs100 for each photocopy attestation, which was within the reach of normal middle class students, now the cost has been raised to Rs 800 for each original and Rs 500 for each photocopy, which is unbearable for a disabled students like me. The increase in the attestation fee is dissuading many students from applying to foreign universities.

Second, in an interview, the chairman disclosed that the HEC is strictly observing provincial quota for awarding scholarships. Observing quota, and not merit, means a less competent student from any province with more seats is more likely to win scholarship than a deserving student from another place with a fewer seats. I would like to know if every kind of quota is observed, then why is there no quota for disabled persons? It seems that our privileged organizations, such as HEC (Higher Education Commission), which should have people with education and compassion and some international norms, are filled with illiterate landlords? When I asked an HEC official by email about the quota for the disabled, after many reminders, he replied that the HEC is an equal-opportunity institution. This is equal opportunity?

It is astonishing that the HEC thinks of equal opportunity when it relates to the disabled quota, and relaxations like age but at the same time even jobs in the HEC are given on a provincial quota basis. I did my post-graduation from the University of Karachi and passed my examinations with distinction (stood second). My precious years of life were wasted in going daily to the Civil Hospital for physiotherapy.

Now when it is time for the society to helping me, I am not eligible for even applying in an open competition for recent overseas scholarships, on the ground of being overage, though I lost my precious years in rehabilitation due to the casual behaviour of hospital staff that was on strike. This too was not my fault. This is the story of every disabled student who fortunately has been able to mange to get higher education in Pakistan.

I request the HEC Chairman and other concerned authorities that if a separate quota cannot be reserved, then a 10 years age relaxation should be given to disabled persons to enable them to participate in open competition. Also, the HEC should reduce this huge amount of attestation fee.

UMM E FARWA,

Karachi, May 15.