ISLAMABAD: Four months after its soft launch, the Ehsaas undergraduate scholarship programme was formally launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday with a commitment that there will be no political interference in all social welfare programmes introduced by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for the poor and low-income groups.
Under the Rs24 billion programme, 50,000 high-achieving undergraduate students will get scholarship through the Higher Education Commission (HEC) every year, with 50 per cent quota fixed for girls.
“Scholarships and benefits from other social welfare programmes will be given on merit and there will be no political interference in such initiatives,” PM Khan vowed while addressing the scholarship distribution ceremony.
The programme is aimed at providing scholarships to a total of 200,000 students belonging to low-income groups from across the country in four years. Its soft launch was held on Nov 4, 2019.
Imran vows there will be no political interference in social welfare initiatives
Lauding the youth of the country, Mr Khan said Pakistani youths have more drive and passion than those studying in Bradford University, UK. He expressed the hope that the students with the scholarship would not only be able to help themselves but would also be shouldering responsibilities of their families and the country. “The students who do not belong to rich families are more intelligent and passionate than those studying in top educational institutions like us who study in [colleges like] Atchison,” he said.
About social security nets, PM Khan said the less privileged segments of society were getting health treatment facilities through the health cards distributed by the government.
“In Punjab, health cards have been distributed among six million families so far, whereas the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to extend this facility to all the deserving families,” the prime minister said.
Through the Ehsaas income programme, Mr Khan said, the government was providing livestock and poultry to womenfolk in villages to support their income.
Besides, he said, about 170,000 youths were being imparted skills development training.
The prime minister said 170 shelter homes had been set up to provide decent facilities to the homeless people. He said that the number of shelter homes would be increased.
The government was also planning to provide legal assistance to the poor people, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Dr Sania Nishtar said the initiative was the biggest-ever need-based and students-focused programme for the undergraduates.
She said: “Merit, transparency and honesty” were the basic ingredients behind the initiative, launched under the Ehsaas programme. She said there was a difference between this government and the one that indulged in corruption, plundering the state resources and destroying its institutions largely affecting its downtrodden. “The mechanism and process for implementation of these initiatives was based upon strict adherence to transparency and merit,” she said.
Dr Nishtar said about 50 per cent quota in the scholarship programme was fixed for female students and 2pc quota for the disabled.
She said the HEC had completed the first phase of the process for awarding scholarships for the year 2019-20. The next phase would commence in June, she added. A total of 200,000 students would benefit from this programme, she reiterated, explaining that a total of 132,000 students had applied for the scholarships.
Since the establishment of the HEC, only 29,000 scholarships had been awarded during the past two decades.
Highlighting salient features of the programme, Dr Nishtar said the programme was a historic shift in the government scholarship policy as in the past, scholarships were given only to students pursuing higher studies. She elaborated that the scholarship programme “covered the tuition fee” besides a monthly stipend of Rs4,000.
Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood said the programme, for the first time, had focused upon undergraduates who would be immensely benefitted. He said apart from this programme, about 170,000 youths were getting high-end skill training in different fields including software technology.
Terming the initiative a game-changer for deserving undergraduates, HEC Chairman Tariq Banuri emphasised that students from the deprived areas must avail themselves of this opportunity.
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020