After being established in 1957 in the city’s Quaidabad neighborhood with financial and technical support from the Swedish government, the Pakistani Swedish Institute of Technology (PSIT) served one of the best technical education institutes around.
While it played a vital role in the progress of a growing industrial sector by providing standard technical skilled manpower for decades, today however, the institution – though it still has been awarding degrees to a large number of students each year – has lost any and all standing in terms of education quality.
Located on the main National Highway in the Quaidabad area and spread over more than 21 acres, the PSIT was totally designed on a Swedish pattern, under which practical training was the main focus. However, with the passage of time, the quality of education could not be maintained and the institution now seems to stand on the verge of destruction.
The PSIT, which operates in morning and evening shifts, has four departments – electrical, mechanical, garments, and printing graphics and art – and offers a three-year degree known as a ‘Diploma of Associate Engineering’ (DAE) in these four subjects.
Currently, around 2,000 students are enrolled in the institute – which is affiliated with the Karachi Technical Educational Board and has the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (STEVTA) as a supervising body – but the campus still wears a deserted look all year as students’ attendance ratio remains at its lowest point.
Most of the workshops and laboratories too are non-operational and the equipment lying around has also been damaged over time. The institute had two production units of wood working and garment but, since 2002, both units have been shut down and machineries worth millions of rupees continue to collect dust.
In the 1990s, political interference in the institute’s affairs, particularly in admissions, came to a peak. Also, regular clashes between different student political groups added to the decline in attendance and education standards.
Incumbent and former students said the PSIT worked as a standard technical institute till the 1990s. “Now the institute has changed into a degree-issuing machine,” said Muhammad Arif Kiyani, a diploma holder of PSIT who is working as an associate engineer at the Pakistan Steel Mills.
“The institute no longer provides practical and theoretical education which is why the recent graduates do not even possess basic knowledge such as how to fix a simple electrical board.”
Kiyani said that as per government rules, a DAE-degree holder will be hired at least at a supervisor level in both the public and private sectors but, now, new PSIT graduates could hardly find lower tier jobs.
Asif Ahmad, a third-year student in the institute’s mechanical department, has not attended a single class over the past two years. “In the beginning, I used to come to the institute to attend classes but since there were hardly ever any students around, I also gave up,” he said.
“How can a student be regular in attendance at an institute where there is no proper academic environment?” he remarked.
“If the institute’s administration changes its policy regarding attendance and stops students from appearing in examinations without 75 percent attendance, everyone will be compelled to attend.”
Though a majority of students remain absent from classes around the year, they easily pass their annual theoretical examinations by using unfair means, with cases of students having passed practical tests without appearing for the exams also doing the rounds.
“Because the institute’s administration has to send positive reports to the high-ups, they do not stop students with low attendance from appearing in exams,” said a teacher at the PSIT, requesting anonymity.
He said the administration had also given a free hand to students to use illegal means in examinations. “The institute was a national asset and owing to a corrupt administration, it is now in the doldrums.”
Engineer Nazir Ahmad Abro, the PSIT’s director, confirmed that most students were not attending classes and workshops. “We have started sending warning letters to students to get them to attend classes regularly,” he said.
He added that all workshops and laboratories need overhauling and the institute’s building also needs renovation. “Shortage of faculty members, frequent electricity load shedding and lack of transport facility for staff and students are also critical problems that are hampering the institute’s academic progress,” he stated.