Pakistan has always played a constructive role in improving educational standards for Afghan refugees in addition to providing support to the Afghan education sector. Pakistan’s contribution to the educational empowerment of Afghan refugees is extraordinary. Facilitating Afghan students for study in Pakistan aims to cement people-to-people contacts and promote mutual collaboration in higher education. Multiple practical steps are being taken by both sides to improve the quality of education in Afghanistan.
An Afghan delegation led by Acting Afghan Minister of Higher Education Abdul Bqi Haqqani visited Pakistan in the first half of December 2021 to find new avenues of collaboration in education and of research. The delegation visited the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC), the National Curriculum Council and the Allama Iqbal Open University in Islamabad. Professor Zia-Ul-Qayyum, VC, AIOU assured the Afghan delegation of all its cooperation to rebuild the higher education sector in Afghanistan, not only by providing technical assistance for the digital transformation of Afghan universities, but also by training their teachers in the latest teaching technologies and course development. . In addition, AIOU will also provide scholarships to Afghan students through regional centers established in KPK and Balochistan near the Afghan borders. In addition, AIOU is also considering establishing its campus in Afghanistan, a proposal in this regard has already been shared with the Ministry of Education.
The University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Peshawar has provided a dedicated sub-campus for Afghan students. Under the Allama Muhammad Iqbal dedicated Pak-Afghan scholarship program, the first phase of which began in 2007, Afghan students can join any university in Pakistan. The University of Management Technologies (UMT), Lahore, offered 100 scholarships to Afghan students including 10 for PhDs. The University of Bahria (Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi campuses) also offered special academic opportunities to Afghan students at costs equivalent to Pakistani students.
As part of recent developments, the government of Pakistan and Torkham border security forces in the KPK have introduced a “blank ID card” to facilitate students across the border. This development would allow Afghan students to continue their studies in Pakistan as before.
In the past, Pakistan has actively worked to improve educational standards for Afghan students. The Taliban have assured to advance the quality of education in Afghanistan and for that determination, they are taking concrete action.
Pakistan’s services to promote the education of Afghan students and refugees are unprecedented. Few of Pakistan’s notable actions in this regard were as follows. The Prime Minister’s scholarship program for Afghan students has been active since 2009. Over 3,000 Pakistani government sponsored scholarships are available in Pakistan to Afghan students. Pakistan has assisted its Afghan brothers not only inside Pakistan but also inside Afghanistan by providing substantial assistance in a number of educational projects which include the Rehman Baba High School in Kabul equipped with a fireplace. per 1,000 students. It was completed in 2008 at a cost of Pak Rs 120 million. Other projects include the Liaquat Ali Khan Faculty of Engineering at Balkh University which was completed in 2014 at a cost of Rs 1.2 billion. Allama Iqbal Arts Faculty, Kabul University completed in 2009, supporting expenses worth Pak Rs 0.7 billion and Sir Syed Science Faculty, Jalalabad, Nangarhar University completed in 2010 at a cost of Pak Rs 0.4 billion.
Pakistan aims to facilitate access for Afghan children to nearby public schools and has encouraged peaceful coexistence between refugees and local children. The quality of education for Afghan refugee children in Pakistan is improved by following Pakistan’s curriculum especially at primary level with qualified teaching staff and learning materials. Afghan children receive certificates from the Pakistani government demonstrating their skills at all levels. These certificates allow them to be admitted to vocational colleges or universities in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Afghan students obtain an accredited exam and certification that allows them to continue their higher education or compete for employment in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistani universities help provide higher education for Afghan youth.
Afghanistan wishes to deepen its engagement with Pakistani universities / colleges. Pakistan has extended visas, scholarships and university facilities to Afghan students, especially female college students. Pakistan wants the international community to support Afghan students through scholarships and building national infrastructure of educational institutes in Afghanistan.
(The writer is an Islamabad-based PHD Media Studies Fellow, tweets @ShFakharA and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)