Hamid Ullah Wazir
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) had always been on low priority agenda of each government before the September 11 terrorist attack on the US; however it was the 9/11 incident and the subsequent military offensives in the tribal belt against militants that brought the region to the limelight and forced the concerned quarters to give some serious thoughts to address the multiple issues facing the belt since inception of the country.
The establishment of an institution of higher learning in the war-ravaged FATA remained long-standing demand of people of the region, which eventually has come true, as regular session under Semester System in FATA University would be started October 2016.
The people of FATA are the ones who bear the brunt of the conflict in the region, because they were in the direct firing range of extremists and militants. During the decade-long war against militancy, education is one of the main targets on their plan and their intentions have been clearly expressed by destruction of hundreds of schools in the tribal belt.
This situation creates complications for government’s efforts to bring stability and peace in the region, a milestone which again is unachievable without provision of adequate education to the children and young generation. Militancy has deprived thousands of children of their constitutional and basic human right to education.
So keeping in view the situation, the then premier Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani announced its establishment during a meeting with MNAs from FATA on January 16, 2009.
However, the project was delayed due to many reasons until the former President Asif Ali Zardari had approved the FATA University Regulations in May 2013.
Afterwards, the government has included a project titled “Establishment of FATA University” in PSDP (HEC) 2015-16 at an estimated cost of Rs.4.7 billion with the allocation of Rs.250.00 million for FY 2015-16.
Prof. Dr. Mohammad Tahir Shah Vice Chancellor of FATA University said that regular session under Semester System would be started in the first ever FATA University in October this year.
He said that hiring of faculty members is underway and the appointments on all the positions would be completed in September.
The VC said that there would be co-education in the university and higher quality and technical education to be imparted to Pakistani students sans giving any consideration to sex, religion, creed, cast, race, class, color and domicile.
He said that initially admission would be offered in undergraduate BS (four years) program in four subjects i.e., Management Sciences, Mathematics, Sociology and Political Science and the advertisement for the Admissions would be issued within few days, vowing that annually two new disciplines could be added.
Anitha Mehsud, PTI FATA Central Representative to political parties and FATA Women, termed the construction of the university a praiseworthy move.
She said that most of the talented FATA students left their education half-way because they could not bear the educational expenses in other major cities of the country.
However, she said that with construction of the University, they would get an opportunity to get education at their door steps.
Hameed Ullah Wazir, Assistant Prof, Hazara University, said that it is a great step and would help bring revolution in the region.
However, he pointed out that accommodation might remain major problem; hence accommodation and transport facilities should be provided to the students and staffers.
Moreover, he said that well-qualified teachers might hesitate to opt to join the university mainly due to security; therefore best incentives should be offered so as to bring best mind to the university.
The latest survey conducted by FATA Secretariat and Bureau of Statistics indicated that as far as education is concerned, the overall literacy rate in Fata is 33.3%; far less than the national average of 58%, as estimated in 2013-14. Similarly, the adult literacy rate in Fata is 28.4% while the national average is 57%. There is a marked gender gap in literacy. Male adult literacy rate in Fata is 45% whereas the same for women is a mere 7.8%. According to the survey, at least 44.2% children in Fata have never enrolled in school.
Anitha Mehsud demanded that female should be given equal opportunity in admission and employment in the university, who are lagging far behind in the field.
She further said that students from South Waziristan Agency should be given special concession in the admission, as seven precious years of their education had been wasted while living life as IDPS.
She said that the university would not only help bring education revolution, but would help put a halt at the extremist tendency in the region.
Dr. Tahir Shah said that initially University is going to start in the Government Degree College, Derra Adem Khel, FR Kohat, therefore, the renovation work is underway in the college building so that the Vice Chancellor Secretariat and the Academic block can start work there in the first week of September.
Three post-graduate colleges in Khar (Bajour Agency), Miran Shah (NorthWaziristan Agency) and Parachinar (Kuram Agency) will be up-graded to Sub-Campuses of FATA University and all the degree colleges of FATA region will be affiliated to FATA University in near future, which would help in bringing an educational revolution in the FATA region.
Dr. Tahir Shah vowed that he would leave no stone unturned in paving the foundation of this university on strong footings, adding that he will try his level best to attract and retain outstanding faculty and staff to serve the university to their best.
The setting up of the university would provide an opportunity to the youths to get education at their door steps and it would bring education revolution in the region if the university keeps away from political interference and ensure meritocracy in hiring faculties’ members.