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KHAIRPUR: US Ambassador Richard Olson has said the USAID is spending $155 million on the construction of 120 schools in Sindh, particularly in the areas affected by floods in 2010, under the Sindh Basic Education Program.

The envoy said at a foundation stone laying ceremony for the first school to be constructed under the program in Koro village on Monday that his country was committed to helping Pakistan in education sector.

According to an official press release, Mr Olson was accompanied by Consul General in Karachi Michael Dodman and USAID country director Greg Gottlieb. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Sindh Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro also attended the ceremony.

He said that girls’ education was his country’s priority in Pakistan because it opened the doors to development.

The schools to be built under the program would be a part of the Education Reforms Programme under which villagers would be involved in the school’s administration, said the press release.

Around 700,000 children would be educated in the new schools for which the Sindh education department was going to spend an additional $10 million, it said.

Afterwards, the US delegation visited the Kot Diji fort and then went to Shah Abdul Latif University where the envoy announced establishing centres for teaching certification courses of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), according to a press release issued by SALU.

Mr Olson said at an interactive dialogue session with students and faculty members that his country focussed on teachers training, exchange programs, Fulbright and undergraduate programs and improvement of primary health and education in remote areas of Pakistan.

He said the US keenly desired peace in Pakistan and was cooperating for the building of peace particularly in Balochistan and FATA areas.

His country encouraged establishment of US universities in Pakistan under public-private partnership, he said.

The USAID country director, Greg Gottlieb, shed light on various projects his organisation was working on in Pakistan especially the Faculty of Education at SALU.

Mr Dodman, US Consul General in Karachi, said that his country was encouraging nascent talent of high school and college students through its micro English access program which had been successfully completed by more than 70,000 students.

In addition, a highly advanced 300-bed hospital complex was coming up fast in Jacobabad with USAID assistance, he said.

SALU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Parveen Shah said the university would sign MoUs on academic collaboration with Mississippi University, Oxford, in March this year.

She said that SALU stood as a bulwark against the advance of religious extremism and despite religious and cultural inhibitions it had ensured that its programs were based on co-education in order to engender respect among young male and female students.

She pointed out that the university’s current on-campus students’ enrolment had reached 9,000 students, among them 3,000 were girls.

US envoy to visit Jacobabad today

Mr Olson and members of his delegation would attend an inauguration ceremony for a water supply scheme built in coordination with the USAID in Jacobabad on Tuesday, our Sukkur correspondent adds.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, provincial ministers Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Mumtaz Hussain Jakhrani and officials concerned would also participate in the ceremony.

Security has been tightened in and around the venue where the ceremony would be held.