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Citizen Voices Education

Saving Education; Pandemic Has Exacerbated Disparities In Access To Education

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Hopes shatter, skyrocketing zeal dashes to the ground and expectations breathe last when a student at the end of every semester during his university life—despite topping the class— has to beseech to The Heavens that his university dues be arranged in some way or the other. This is the story of every second person belonging to the compromised sections of society in Pakistan.

People say, university gives you some years of life which a person throughout his later life keeps on craving for. That’s true to a great extent, but in the case of a few fortunate people. It’s a routine matter for the less fortunate ones that they have to struggle with a plethora of fiscal issues during their university life. If you are blessed with a discerning eye, you are requested to take a round of any public University these days. You will feel like someone has stolen the ever-present smile from the faces of young men that would reign supreme a few years ago.

I am deliberately not mentioning girls here, for a majority of them does not have fiscal issues to deal with in the first place. Its still a norm in Pakistan that the girls of only elite or middle class families go for a university education. In case a girl from a poor background comes to university, there are more than 80% chances that she will opt for dropping out owing to financial issues. I speak from experience.

This coronavirus pandemic as well as the ever surging inflation has proven to be a final nail in the coffin. Every public university is striving to fill the seats of the programmes they offered this year. A friend of mine told me that the International Relations (IR) department of a well-known public university uploaded its first merit list on their website selecting thirty-six (36) students. And you can assume the situation very well from the fact that not a single student came to the University’s premises to gain fee vouchers or verify their documents.

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Meanwhile, I have had an opportunity to submit my own semester dues in the bank nearby to my house where I chanced upon my university fellows there. However, that was also the last day to submit the dues. I inquired about their being in the bank on the last date. Their answer was—as could be expected— that they were struggling to amass the required amount. Luckily, they had been successful in doing so. But what about the rest of students who never visited the universities since they opened their gates for Students after months long lockdown?

As the things stand, I can say without a modicum of doubt that parents are somehow finding themselves unable to provide their children with two times meal properly, let alone bearing the educational expenditures. Anything productive the Government can do at the moment is to restore the merit based scholarships that must be given to all hardworking students and pay off half the dues of every student for this highly tough educational year. Such intervention may provide a sigh of relief to the students and their families. We are all in this together and we would come out of these crises only together. Compassion and cooperation are all that are badly needed for the time being. I hope, my voice will be heard.

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Naya Daur