Senate Standing Committee on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Tuesday recommended increase in the budget of Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship program as well as the amount of the stipend for students.
Chairman of the committee, Dr. Jahanzeb Jamaldini said that online application facility was not available in the whole country and emphasized on utilizing the other sources to extend this facility to the maximum students of the far flung areas.
He recommended that the advertisements of the program should be published through the local newspapers in backward and remote areas.
Senator Rubina Khalid said that it has become a dream for the children of middle class families to get education in the public sector higher educational institutions due to the exorbitant fee structure.
Public sector higher educational institutions should not become money-making factories but centers for providing affordable and quality education to the students, she said.
About Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship program, she said such scholarship programs can benefit only fewer students and urged the government to ensure provision of educational facilities to the poor through reducing fees in higher education institutions.
Secretary Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) and Adviser Human Resources Higher Education Commission (HEC) informed the committee that Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Program is a joint initiative of HEC and BISP.
The policy and funding is the responsibility of the BISP while the implementation of scholarships is the responsibility of HEC.
The program worth Rs. 27.93 billion was aimed at financing higher education for poor and low income students.
The students having family income of less than Rs. 45,000 are eligible for scholarship and can submit applications at the 125 public sector universities. This facility can not be availed by private university and public sector self-financed students, they explained.
As many as 50 percent quota for girls and two percent for disabled students have been fixed for the scholarship program.
The committee was informed that around 50762 students were given scholarships under this program in the year 2019 while 132,000 applications were received.
Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship program is a four to five year regular undergraduate degree program and provides stipend of Rs. 40,000 per student.
The scholarship worth Rs. 4.8 billion were provided under this initiative for the financial year 2019-20.
About the second phase of the program, the committee was informed that the applications can be submitted from September 5 to October 30.
The meeting of the Standing Committee also reviewed in detail the matters regarding the shelters (Panahgah), cost, future plans and establishment of shelters on provincial and regional basis.
Managing Director, Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM), Aon Abbas Bappi and Secretary PBM briefed the committee that around 150 million people are homeless all over the world.
Five shelters have been set up in Islamabad which have the one star hotel facilities and one man can stay for three days.
As many as 86646 people came to the shelters of Islamabad out of which 77550 availed food and 9096 accommodation.
They briefed that the shelter provides the best food and accommodation for the needy and deserving people.
The beneficiaries of this facility include the homeless, away from home, unemployed, laborers, the poor, travelers, carers, and students.
The committee was briefed that one shelter provides overnight accommodation for 100 people and anchorage for 400 people. Sanitation in the shelter is ensured in accordance with the principles of hygiene.
They said that the private-sector partnerships was being encouraged to make mutual cooperation sustainable and self-sufficient and the process to receive donations has been simplified by PBM.
The committee was informed that there are 59 shelters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, five in Islamabad while Sindh and Balochistan will soon set up Bait-ul-Mal shelters. Lahore has three shelters while ten more will be opened.
The members of the committee recommended that the budget of PBM should also be increased so that more and more people could benefit from such pro poor initiatives.
They were of the view that PBM is providing better treatment services to the patients and more people can benefit from increasing its budget.