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July 21, 2019

Harnessing youth potential


July 21, 2019

Pakistan seemingly sits on a powder keg. It has one of the highest numbers of youth population in the world, which in an ideal situation is supposed to hold in store a bright future for us. But unfortunately things are not ideal on the ground and due to failure of state institutions to tap this potential, it is feared that we may end up spoiling this potential and leaving our youth on the path of violence and deviation.

Education is the secret of success for nations and who other than Dr Raof-i-Azam, vice chancellor of the University of Education (UE), is in a better position to draw a picture on a broader canvass for our concerned readers?

A researcher to the core and an excellent administrator, Dr Azam shared with me some shocking figures. He said that in high-end developing and developed countries, from 70 to 90 per cent of youth go to universities to get education in their time. “But in Pakistan, hardly 10 per cent of our youth go to universities,” he said.

Pakistan is having 64 per cent of its population made up of youth for the first time in history and their major chunk is between 15 to 30 years of age. Dr Azam said that education is not free. “It comes at a cost that somebody has to bear,” he said.

He said recently, the government has cut the higher education budget. Universities are not able to sustain even their recurring budget, much less development and expansion, he said.

He said 90 per cent of expenditure of universities is fixed as this amount goes into salaries of staff and other regular payments. It means that if the government cuts budget for education, there is not much left for university managers to do about it.

“As I said education comes at a price. When we do not have money to bear expenditure, fees will surely go up. But we will try our best to cushion our students from this impact as much as we can,” he said.

He said student wings of some political parties are always on the prowl to exploit such situations but universities are able to handle them with better management.

A brief talk with him and you will find that he is a trouble shooter and straight talker, which is very rare for a person of his stature. In our universities, issues continue piling up and efficiency gradually loses to officialdom. It results into having an army of lethargic and cynical souls upon another twice a year.

But Dr Azam has successfully fought off these evils and in his tenure, he has turned around the country’s leading university. Before him, ad-hocism ruled the roost but he appointed regular administrators from top to bottom and made all parts of the university functional.

He has a vision for elevating the southern parts of Punjab through education and it is reassuring that both campuses of the UE in that region are delivering results. At present, the UE is in process of affiliating an education institution with it for the sake of promotion of education in the neglected Muzaffargarh district of southern Punjab. We can only hope that visionaries like Dr Azam are able to bring to fruition the projects they have started so that our youth is educated and our future is in capable hands.

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