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October 21, 2019

No place for students


October 21, 2019

One can only wonder how low students are on the priority list of the state. In only the latest instance of anti-student action by those that run the country, Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority (CDA) decided to seal student hostels in the city. This is a year in which the HEC budget was cut massively, leading to questions about how poorly young people in Pakistan are treated. Having been elected on a pro-youth platform, the sitting PTI government has proven to be the opposite. Instead of extra funding for education and lodging for young people, one of the first moves by the current government was to tell universities to cut scholarships. Now, student lodging appears to be the next target. It is only fair that young people ask why they are being targeted. The issue on hostels is a rather simple one. The government has refused to provide a steady supply of lodging for hundreds of thousands of university students, who are then forced to go to the private market to live in conditions that are sub-optimal. Private-sector hostel providers charge more than university-run hostels despite often providing poorer facilities.

Instead of compelling public and private-sector universities in Islamabad to provide housing to all of their out-of-station students, the CDA has decided to simply shut down the little housing that is available to students. There is little doubt that this is a ridiculous situation. Many high-rises in the capital city operate without proper approval, so students seem to be seen as a lesser citizens. Their political rights were curtailed in the 1980s after the ban on student unions. Many universities continue to make student sign declarations that they will not get involved in politics. The objective appears to be to build a cadre of workers that are used to being told what to do for low compensation, instead of them being encouraged to feel like they can hope for a better country. Now, students in the capital city have to undergo the everyday fear that their hostel could be the next to be sealed, which could leave thousands of students without home. Of course, students have attempted to resist the ongoing CDA action, but this is not what they should be focusing on. Students must facilitated, rather than discouraged. At this moment, it looks like the government is doing its best to make them feel like they have no future in the country. This should not happen.

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