PESHAWAR: The government has formed a six-member committee to look into the issues plaguing educational standards at the historical Edwardes College, Peshawar, and find a ‘workable solution’.

The committee headed by the commissioner of Peshawar division will submit the report to the chief minister within 15 days.

A notification issued by the Chief Minister’s Secretariat on Oct 28 said the committee formed on the directions of CM Mahmood Khan comprised the commissioner of Peshawar division as its convener, secretary of the higher education department, principal of the Edwardes College or his nominee, retired bureaucrat Hifzur Rehman, secretary of Peshawar diocese Dr Sarah Safdar and any co-opted member recommended by it.

Committee will suggest ‘workable solution’ to declining educational standards

Sources told Dawn that the government was under immense pressure of the federal government and international community to place the college established in 1900 under the supervision of the diocese of Peshawar.

The committee’s formation comes in the wake of a Peshawar High Court judgement, which recently declared that the Edwardes College was nationalised through the Privately Managed School and Colleges (Taking Over) Regulation, 1972, which was validated by the 1973 Constitution.

A high court bench headed by a senior judge, Qaiser Rasheed, accepted a petition filed by the college’s faculty members on Nov 1 but expressed concern about the college’s declining educational standards and asked the government to look into it for corrective measures.

It observed that the students used to be vying eagerly to get admission in this college due to its highest educational standards and merit but suddenly, things had come to such an abysmal state in which the students migrated to other colleges to save their future due to deteriorating educational standards and poor results in board and university exams.

The college’s administration and teachers remained involved in a legal wrangling for many months over the administrative status of the college.

Meanwhile, senior faculty members have expressed reservations about the formation of the committee and told the chief minister in a letter that in light of the high court’s judgment, the 1974 notified board of governors was the only lawful, legitimate and effective grievance redressal authority vested with all administrative powers of the college since 1974.

“Since last four decades, it represents and honours all stake holders: Provincial education and finance departments, Church of Pakistan, Faculty, Old Students and renowned educationist (vice chancellor of University of Peshawar) under the chairmanship of Provincial Governor,” the letter read.

It added that any other body in any capacity if not sanctioned by the BoG would stand unlawful and in utter contempt of the court’s judgment.

In the five-page letter, the teachers referred to several portions of the PHC’s judgment in support of their contention.

Peshawar diocese Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peter, whose petition was dismissed by the court, had sought orders for declaring the college a private educational institution in light of a judgment delivered by the court in 2016 and to stop the government from interfering in its affairs.

Similarly, the college faculty members, including vice-principal Shakil Ahmad Nisar, had challenged the stand of the bishop saying all privately-managed schools and colleges had been taken over by the government in 1972.

They had requested the court to declare the Edwardes College an autonomous educational institution governed by the BoG notified in 1974.

The provincial governor had chaired the meetings of the BoG until March this year when the diocese committee abolished that board and formed another headed by the bishop.

The bench has ruled that as the record unfolded, pursuant to Para 4 of the Privately Managed Schools and Colleges (Taking Over) Regulation, 1972, (Regulation no 118) from Sept 1, 1972, all private colleges together with all property attached to them should vest in the central government if they’re located in Islamabad Capital Territory and in the provincial government if they existed in the relevant province.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2019