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Saturday, 28 September 2013

The way forward: Alumni encouraged to reach for their dreams


I am a proud daughter, a committed officer and a grateful human being.

This was stated by a native of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda district, Tajalla Mahmood. She completed her Master's in Business Administration from the Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar, through financial assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Merit and Need-based Scholarship Programme four years back.

"Today I'm the sole breadwinner of my family and it was made possible by the scholarship that helped me complete my education," said Mahmood, an assistant director at the National Database and Registration Authority and one of 1,807 students benefitting from the programme launched in 2004.

On Thursday, Higher Education Commission (HEC) and USAID invited alumni to attend a "Career Orientation Workshop" at the HEC. The workshop was held for underprivileged students studying business administration or agriculture at one of 11 Pakistani universities.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, chief guest, Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal said, "It's your responsibility to pay back by working towards the development of your country."

According to Iqbal, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government was focused on education as envisaged in Pakistan Vision 2025 and a five-year plan, which are to be finalised by December 31.

The minister said there were positive signs like an active judiciary, democratic transition, freedom of expression and an emerging civil society. "All these indicate that Pakistan is maturing as a successful democracy."

To graduates, he said, "Don't play like Shahid Afridi who either hits a six or loses the wicket," Iqbal said. "Life is not a T-20 match. It's a test match and you have to have the patience and stamina for the whole game."

During the ceremony, HEC Executive Director Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said, "Only around eight per cent of Pakistanis in the 17 to 23 age bracket have access to higher education which is less than or equal to that of Sub-Saharan Africa." India has a higher access rate of around 14 per cent for higher education he added.

USAID Education Director Thomas LeBlanc said the scholars' collective hard work and commitment was commendable. LeBlanc told participants they should be confident and seize opportunities that come their way.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2013.

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