Why on earth would the government cut the budgets of universities? The education sector was allocated a puny2.4 per cent in the 2018-19 budget, the lowest in the region. Universities in the country were given a mere 0.05pc of that budget!
In 2017-18, the total enrolment in 186 public and private universities was 1.6 million with 86pc of university-going students enrolled in public sector universities. To put things in perspective, Pakistan’s population is a little over 202 million. In a mere four years these alarmingly few young women and men will shoulder the management of this country, join government offices, private sector businesses or become teachers.
Instead, public sector universities are told to take austerity measures which will result in: no funds to buy essential equipment and computers or hire new staff. Unpainted, crumbling buildings with broken benches, a bare minimum of equipment that is near obsolete, more unrepaired and rusting university buses. The budget prior to cuts barely covered half of the basic running expenses incurred by the University of Karachi.
There are some brilliant teachers at the KU who are –metaphorically-- teaching with their hands tied, wasting what little energy is left after feeling unappreciated and crushed, in desperate protests and begging an impoverished administration for what should be basic facilities.
We may as well hand out gratis degrees required for the job market, as there is no question of achieving excellence, developing much-needed research and training. No brilliant academicians will scramble to get the opportunity to teach the 1.13 million public sector students who represent the dreams of families that make financial sacrifices to give their children a better chance in life than they had.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2019