Dilemma Of Minorities’ Education In Punjab

'1211 seats had been allocated in public sector universities for minority students but only 246 students could get admission because of the university administration’s indifference and lack of govt’s pressure to implement the quota.'

Dilemma Of Minorities’ Education In Punjab

Punjab like rest of the country predominantly has a Muslim population but like other parts also includes people of other religions and cultures. There are 3.3 million minorities which are mostly Christians. There are a few thousand Hindus and Sikhs. However, minorities lag behind the Muslim population in all sectors especially in education and services.

Christians due to their quality missionary institutions are known for their contribution in national development in the fields of education and health. Many of these institutions still remain nationalized. Unfortunately, the literacy rate of Christians remains low and they are very much behind the majority of people in higher education and at white collar jobs. This was the reason that they were given quota for admissions in educational institutions and in public sector jobs. It is sad that for various reasons the minorities are not getting that quota. There is need to check this system of allocation of quota and how it is being implemented so that the goal of making the minorities join the mainstream in contributing to development of the country may be achieved. 

This was the contention of senior journalist Emanuel Sarfraz in a program with a private digital media outlet while describing the gravity of situation and how the situation can be improved.

There are 30 public sector universities in Punjab. The Punjab Higher Education Commission has failed to implement the minority students’ admission quota, which is two percent for religious minorities. 1211 seats had been allocated in these universities for minority students but only 246 students could get admission because of the university administration’s indifference and lack of government’s pressure to implement the quota. No step could be seen taken by the Higher Education Commission to review the situation and implement the quota in the last couple of years. Only 113 male and 133 female students managed to get admissions, of these 208 students were Christian, 6 Ahmadi and 27 Hindu students, says a report published in Express Tribune. The religious minorities largely remain uninformed about the quota as universities are rarely seen to be advertising the availability of quota along with the general admission advertisements. 

Majority of public sector universities do not give details regarding the minority seats in their prospectus. The vice chancellors should personally look into the matter. “Often the blame is put on the students that they do not apply for admission on quota seats which is wrong, higher education is expensive but also there are so many scholarships available from the ministry of minority affairs and human rights as well as other scholarships. The chief minister should look into the matter to find out the real reasons as to why minority students fail to get admissions and scholarships,” he said.  

While giving an interview to a digital news channel, Sarfraz said, “We cannot put all blame on minority youth for this loss; the major reason behind the wastage of seats is a lack of proper advertisement by universities and the negligence of minorities’ political representatives to highlight the issue,” he opined.

The universities should especially mention minority quota in their prospectus. Talking to educated segments of minorities, including doctors, engineers, and accountants, it came to be known that none of them knew about the existence of quota for minorities, which clearly indicates flaws in advertisements and the system of implementation. In some cases the criteria for admission of minorities in public sector professional institutions is not clear or even mentioned.”

The journalist also urged the minority youth to apply for admissions at universities and colleges. “Submit one admission form for the general seat and another for the minority quota, and if you succeed in getting admission on merit, then don’t avail a seat on the minority quota so that it may be used by other minority students,” he suggested.

Sarfraz lauded the contributions of former federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated in Islamabad in 2011, due to which minorities got a 2 percent quota in higher education and a 5 percent quota in government jobs.

“This is indeed a negligence of our political leadership that they are failing in ensuring allocation of seats to minorities on quota,” he regretted.

“There is a need to spread awareness among minorities so that these seats may be utilized. There are opportunities in the country, but we should make our youth aware so they may avail themselves of such opportunities,” he added.

Sarfraz also urged the vice chancellors of all public-sector universities to advertise properly. He stated, “Sitting MPAs and MNAs should also look into the matter as to why our seats are being wasted and why minority students are not acquiring them.”

The minorities have great expectations from newly-elected Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz and the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), he said.

“In fact there is need to check and ensure that minority students get admission in all public sector schools and colleges. Minority quotas should also be allocated in public sector schools like Danish schools and other such projects,” he said. The senior journalist was of the view that there is urgent need to look into the matter because matric students have given their exams and soon they will be applying for admission in different public sector colleges reportedly there is five percent quota for students in colleges but like higher education here too the same problem lies and that is implementation of five percent quota in all undergraduate and graduate programs. “The government must issue a directive to all public sector educational institutions to ensure inclusion of information about minorities quota in the prospectus and in advertisements. A special task force may be formed at provincial level to ensure that all educational institutions follow the directive in letter and spirit,” Sarfraz concluded.