Pakistani ghost schools | NUST robotics contest

Who will detect the 8,000 ghost schools and how?
Islamabad, July 01: In an apparent move to hide corruption worth billions and protect thousands of ghost schools throughout the country, head of Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) has forewarned his staff about the raids of third party validation teams, hired by the federal government to detect ghost schools.

The shocking move urging the BESC employees to hoodwink the monitors has rendered the entire multi-million rupee exercise of validation as useless as the monitoring teams would not be able to detect around 8,000 estimated ghost schools.

The letter written by BESC Project Director Sajid Balouch, a copy of which is available with The News, warns the teachers about the government efforts to identify ghost schools through third party teams asking them to be prepared themselves and their schools before the visits of monitoring team to give an impression of all is well.

BESC is a project of the Ministry of Education running around 13,000 community schools to promote literacy in far-flung areas of the country. The project having worth of over Rs8 billion, is scandalous and allegedly feeds more than 8000 ghost schools in all provinces and regions including the federal capital. Last year the government spent Rs1 billion on the project but even an official inquiry by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) had identified over 2007 ghost schools under the project costing Rs144 million per annum from the national exchequer.

However despite eye-opening disclosure through Nadra's 2011 inquiry, the Ministry of Education remained unmoved. Recently, however the Planning Commission warned to stop funding for the project without a third party validation. The validation process which was starting two months ago is yet to be completed but the Project Director of BECS Sajid Baloch issued a warning letter No 19/229 on 16 April 2013 titled "Directions for BESC teachers".

The letter informs the teachers that: "Higher authorities had hired impartial agencies for third party validation of our schools. So for the next three months no teacher should be absent from duty otherwise the monitors will report your absence and action may be taken against you and schools could be closed."

The letter also urges teachers to ensure presence of students in the class during monitoring teams' visits and improve cleanliness and discipline in the class. They have been directed to ensure that books are available in the class during visits. Teachers should also refrain from subjecting students to physical torture, it says. "This is making mockery of the whole expensive exercise by the government. How can you catch a criminal running a ghost school if you warn him/her before the raid of monitoring team," said an official of BESC requesting anonymity.

When contacted, BESC Project Director Sajid Balouch said he did not act illegally by issuing the letter to school teachers as the exact date of monitoring team's visits had not been disclosed to the teachers. "My answer is that the Ministry of Education has already advertised tenders for third party validation through newspapers. So it was not a secret exercise," he said.

He admitted there are ghost schools working under the project but said the number of such schools could not be verified before the completion of the validation exercise. Balouch said the government had paid around Rs45 million to the monitors for validation. He said the validation process will be completed within next two weeks. He lamented that last year government only allocated Rs1 billion for the project around Rs400 million less than the required amount.

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KU admissions
Karachi: The University of Karachi on Sunday announced the schedule for admissions in its evening programme in various disciplines.

These include Masters programmes (two years/four semesters) and one-year diploma programmes leading to Masters degree as well as one-year diploma programmes.

The admission booklets with application forms will be available from July 1 to 12 from the UBL Silver Jubilee Gate branch and the UBL university campus branch during the working days.

The duly filled in forms along with required documents will be accepted until July 12. Classes are scheduled to commence on August 15.

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BIEK notifies new date for exams
Karachi: The controller of examinations of the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK), Mohammad Imran Khan Chishti, has announced a fresh date for the exams postponed on June 22 due to the untoward situation in the city then.

The exams for commerce (private), humanities (regular and private) and special candidates would be held on July 5, he said.

According to the announcement, Accounting paper-I will be held from 9.30am to 12.30pm on Friday. The same day, Education paper-II, Islamic History paper II, Geography paper-II, Outlines of Home Economics paper-II, Braille paper-II and Fine Arts paper-II will begin at 3.30pm with the first four mentioned to continue till 6.30pm and the latter two for special candidates till 5.30pm.

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Engineering Robotics Contest held at NUST
Rawalpindi: 11th National Engineering Robotics Contest was organised Saturday jointly by NUST, STEM Career Programme-HEC and Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) at NUST College of Electrical & Mechanical Engineering (E&ME), Rawalpindi, says a press release.

Lieutenant General Haroon Aslam, who was chief guest in his address while complimenting the efforts taken up so vigorously by NUST College of E&ME said: "National Engineering Robotics Contest is a platform, which provides the engineering students of Pakistan with an opportunity to get the complete engineering experience. He said that the NERC is, indeed, an enriching educational experience for all participants. Regardless of whether you are a novice or an expert, you will go home having learnt something - not just about science and technology, but also about the value of teamwork and good sportsmanship.

"Seeing such a huge turnout and the students working with such dedication on one of the most sophisticated field engineering has to offer, I can see the potential of our future engineers," he said.

Major General Obaid Bin Zakria, Commandant College of Electrical & Mechanical Engineering in his address appreciated how the number of participants had grown over the years and the standard of the competition has risen. He said: "Winning or losing is not the aim of this contest; it is to show the world the potential of Mechatronics engineers of Pakistan and to encourage students to join this engineering field."

Dr. Younus Javed, the Dean of Academics in his welcomed the honourable guests and highlighted the importance of co-and extra-curricular activities in building a sound personality and a successful human being.

Earlier, Brigadier Dr. Javaid Iqbal, the Head of Mechatronics Department and Chief Organiser of the contest, informed that more than 160 teams from different Engineering Universities, Colleges and Institutes from all over the country registered for the qualifying round. He also said: "NUST, College of E&ME was the first to start Mechatronics Engineering in Pakistan and was also that first to start a National level robotics competition in the country."

In the end Lieutenant General Muhammad Haroon Aslam gave away the prizes to the winning teams of "National Engineering Robotic Contest 2013." The news

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PCTN to be launched at NUST
Islamabad: The Pakistan Chapter of Talloires Network would be launched at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) tomorrow (Monday) for coaxing higher education institutions playing their indispensable role toward community development.

The chapter is all set to emerge as the regional hub of Talloires Network in South Asia. The network would be dedicated to promote community service, civic engagement and the service learning in higher education for the socio-economic development of the country. The goals and objectives of this platform includes curriculum development for service learning, maximum use of tools and instrument for impact evaluation and service learning programmes to strengthen Pakistan's higher education institutions and the civil society.

The other purposes of this platform are to build and foster a culture of volunteerism in Pakistani academic institutions, enable their students to tackle the problems in societies and on forg a collective vision for advancing in the field of community engagement in higher education worldwide.

The network would help promote the vision of the Tailoires Network across 136 universities in the country and motivate them to become its members and play a meaningful role to enhance community engagement.

The objectives of NUST Community Service Strategy (CSS) are vast and multi-dimensional, however, the focus remains on education, health, environment, sustainable development and conflict resolution.

This strategy will achieve the objectives of transformation of NUST students into socially active citizens and aspiring their students to opt for science, technology and social service.

It would promote healthcare through the use of ICT, reduction in environmental degradation, sustainable development and view the possible adverse impact of development on water, energy, natural resources, infrastructure and the society and disaster relief and rehabilitation.

The Tallories Network is an international association of institution committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education. They work together to implement the recommendations of the Tallories' declaration and build a global network of universities.

The network believes that higher education institutions do not exist in isolation from societies and communities in which they are located.

This network envisions universities around the world as a vibrant and dynamic force in the societies cooperating civic engagement and community service in their research and teaching mission. app

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