ISLAMABAD               -            President Dr. Arif Alvi on Thursday said that the Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Project is a state guardianship for the deprived, as it is responsibility of the state to counter elitism by facilitating people in employment as well as education and health sectors.

He said this while addressing the 27th Vice Chancellors Committee meeting held in connection with Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship project. The heads of public sector universities across the country attended the meeting at HEC Secretariat. Many of them joined through video link from their respective campuses.

Dr. Alvi regretted that students from low income families were forced to quit education after matriculation or intermediate due to financial constraints. If only three per cent of students acquire college education, 97 per cent of the country’s intellect is neglected, he asserted.

He stressed that the state is responsible for countering elitism by taking such measures as the launch of the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas Programme. Elaborating his own experiences, he highlighted the importance of merit and need-based scholarships in a student’s life. He said it is a major development that provision of educational opportunities to undergraduate students is focused under this project.

The President urged the Vice Chancellors to take a ‘quantum jump’ for enhancement in quality of education in order to make country’s youth productive in terms of provision of service to the society. He stressed the need for ensuring fairness and transparency in the execution of Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Project.

Appreciating the gender balance maintained in the project, he said it is a social obligation not to let the women’s productivity and contribution to society go waste. He regretted that, according to a report, 80 per cent of women graduating from medical institutes do not work. He also advised the university heads to take greater care of specially-abled students in whatever form they need it.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar said the project aims at promoting human capital investment, as it is imperative to invest in the human capital making the youth technologically skilled to meet the future challenges. She said that these scholarships are part of a much broader effort being made under the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas Programme, to intervene on behalf of the welfare of the poor. Dr. Nishtar termed the project a paradigm change in the state scholarship policy. She said that Prime Minister Imran Khan is keen that this programme should benefit maximum number of students across the country, adding that the government will allocate more resources for this in the coming years.

Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri underscored that 249 out of 250 students from low income families cannot afford to acquire undergraduate education, so the government must enhance budget for Ehsaas Scholarships. He informed the gathering that as many as 132,000 students have submitted applications under the first phase.

The Chairman urged the Vice Chancellors to ensure transparency in the award of scholarships under the project.

He proposed that five per cent of the recurrent grant awarded to public sector universities should continue to be allocated to scholarships which would supplement and fill the gaps in coverage of the Ehsaas Programme.