Pakistan has always played a constructive part in upgradation of educational standards of Afghan refugees besides providing support to Afghanistan’s educational sector. Pakistan’s contribution towards educational empowerment of Afghan refugees is extraordinary. Facilitating Afghan students for studies in Pakistan aims at cementing people-to-people contacts and promoting mutual collaboration in higher education. Multiple practical steps are being taken by both sides to improve the quality of education in Afghanistan.
Afghan delegation led by acting Afghan Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani visited Pakistan during 1st half of December 2021to find new avenues of collaboration in education and research fields. The delegation visited Higher Education Commission (HEC), National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC), National Curriculum Council and Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad. Prof Dr. Zia-Ul-Qayyum, VC, AIOU assured Afghan delegation of all out cooperation to reconstruct higher education sector in Afghanistan, not only providing technical assistance in digital transformation of Afghan universities but also training their teachers in latest teaching technologies and courses development. Besides, AIOU will also provide scholarships to Afghan students through regional centres established in KPK and Baluchistan near Afghan borders. Moreover, AIOU is also planning to establish its campus in Afghanistan, proposal in this regard has already been shared with education ministry.
University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Peshawar has provided a dedicated sub-campus for the Afghan students.Under Pak-Afghan dedicated Allama Muhammad Iqbal Scholarships Programme, the first phase of which was started in 2007, Afghan students can join any university in Pakistan. University of Management Technology (UMT), Lahore, offered 100 scholarships for Afghan students including 10 for PhD. Bahria University (Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi campuses) has also offered special academic opportunities to Afghan students at costs equivalent to that for Pakistani students.
Under recent developments, Government of Pakistan and the Torkham border security forces in the KPK have introduced a ‘blank identification card’to facilitate students from across the border. This development would enable Afghan students to continue their education in Pakistan as earlier.
In past, Pakistan has actively worked for improvement of educational standards of Afghani students. Taliban have assured to advance the quality of education in Afghanistan and for this resolve they are taking practical steps.
Pakistan’s services for promoting education for Afghani students and refugees are unparallel. Few outstanding steps of Pakistan in this regard were as follows. Prime Minister’s scholarship scheme for Afghan students has remained active since 2009. More than 3,000 Pakistan Government-sponsored scholarships are offered in Pakistan for Afghan students. Pakistan has helped its Afghan brethren not only inside Pakistan but also inside Afghanistan by providing substantial assistance in a number of educational projects that include Rehman Baba High School, Kabul equipped with a hostel for 1,000 students. It was completed in 2008 at the cost of Pak Rs 120 million. Other projects include Liaquat Ali Khan Engineering Faculty, Balkh University that was completed in 2014 at the cost of Pak Rs 1.2 billion. Allama Iqbal Arts Faculty, Kabul University completed in 2009, bearing expenses worth Pak Rs 0.7 billion and Sir Syed Science Faculty, Jalalabad, Nangarhar University completed in 2010 at the cost of Pak Rs 0.4 billion.
Pakistan aims to facilitate Afghan children access to nearby public schools and encouraged peaceful co-existence amongst refugees and local children. The quality of education for Afghan refugee children in Pakistan is improved by following the curriculum of Pakistan, particularly at the primary level, with qualified teaching staff and learning materials. Afghan children are receiving government of Pakistan certificates demonstrating their proficiency at all levels. These certificates enable them to obtain admission in professional colleges or universities in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Afghan students are obtaining accredited examination and certification that allows them to continue their higher education or compete for employment in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistani universities are contributing in imparting higher education to Afghan youth.
Afghanistan is keen to further deepen engagement with Pakistani universities/colleges. Pakistan has extended visas, scholarships and university facilities to Afghan students particularly women students. Pakistan wants International community to support Afghan students through scholarships and domestic infrastructure building of educational institutes in Afghanistan.
(The writer is Islamabad based PHD Media studies fellow, tweets @ShFakharA and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)