By Salic Baloch
The posh, glistening admin block is more heavily guarded than the main entrance where one armed and two dark complexioned police men are busy in checking incoming and outgoing visitors in Lasbela University of Water Management and Marine Sciences (LUWAMS).
The newly-built admin block is built close to main gate which now cuts down a distance of 2 kilometres for visitors who, before establishment of the new building, had to have a hike to meet the Vice Chancellor, Dr Dost Mohammad Bloch. But, for students, the distance to the new admin block has almost increased. Dr Dost Mohammad has credit for transformation of university’s infrastructure. It’s a busy day and routine business of the university has started. Although VC seems angry on infrastructural flaws of his newly-built admin building which has got flooded after the recent monsoon rain, yet agrees for a short interview despite having a hectic schedule, for he has to attend a meeting of Deans of his university.
In 2016, during the tenure of Nawaz Sharif, Higher Education Commission of Pakistan announced a project to expand educational roots to the areas distanced from universities. The project carried a physical and academic infrastructural expansion in 31 districts. The project, overall, included expansion of 16 sub-campuses of public sector universities provided the districts had the potential of student intake of 1000-1500. In 2018, Lasbela University became a participant in the marathon of educational expansion. On insistence of Ahsan Iqbal, the then Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform who also headed the HEC’s project, Lasbela University decided to initiate two sub-campuses in Wadh and Dera Murad Jamali. The decision had many flaws and put the quality of education at main campus at stake.
An Educational Tweet!
Sardar Akhtar Mengal, after the HEC’s initiative, tweeted that he had land to allocate for the education purpose. With the re-tweet of Ahsan Iqbal the sub-campus was materialized. In short, the sub-campus of Lasbela University is the outcome of an educational tweet. Factually, the project initiated by the HEC had a condition which bound the University to initiate the sub-campus if the area had a potential student intake of 1000-1500 students. Wadh does not meet the required condition given its small population. For instance, the campus, initiated in 2018, has total strength of 130 students. 80% students travel from Khuzdaer to Wadh for the classes. Khuzdar, one the densely-populated cites of Balochistan, lies at a distance of 60 kilometres from Wadh. The campus is an extension and remains burdensome in terms of transportation provided to the students travelling from Khuzdar.
“The frequent problem that students face is the lack of transportation for the students travelling from Khuzdar. Students are more in number and there is lack of buses to facilitate them,” says a student who requests not to be named.
Dr Dost Mohammad Baloch, Vice Chancellor Lasbela University, however, considers establishment of both campuses a bold step by his administration. “We took this step as a challenge and the initiative had a lot of difficulties for us to deal with. I personally visited the areas and took the tribal and religious circles, might be opposed to the co-education, into confidence. We have competent staff looking after the management and classes,” Dr Dost Mohammad told Balochistan Review.
On the other hand, one of the critics, who also wishes not to be named, claims that there are two conditions in such a case to ensure quality of education in a sub-campus established in a place like Wadh: first, the university should be sound enough to provide quality education free of cost or it should have a competent staff which could ensure enrolment of students because quality education ensures increase in enrolment.
Ensuring quality education at main campus
In 2018, the social media started buzzing with a tweet carrying a picture. The picture was of a question paper prepared by one of the teachers of Information Department Lasbeal University. The question paper had many grammatical mistakes and typos. The word ‘computer’ even was misspelt in the question paper. This led to the removal of the teacher.
Jibran hails from Turbat and he is here for earning a degree in veterinary science. He had heard about the quality of education that department provided to the students.
“I am satisfied with the education provided by my department. I am supervised by a competent faculty staff, almost PhDs. However, there is lack of clinical procedures that students wish to learn properly,” Jibran told Balochistan Review.
On the other hand, Noor a student of International Relations, laments about not having a competent staff. His department has one PhD, the dean of the department. He complains about teachers who take subsidy classes. Noor complains that his teachers do not respond the questions. For instance, he once asked the teacher to make him understand the geo-politics through the maps, but his question was avoided.
While rejecting the claim, the VC claims that 80% of the faculty staff have PhD degrees. “Our staff is as competent as the faculty members working in any universities of Balochistan and Pakistan,” Dr Dost Mohammad claims. “As for as the case of ‘incompetent’ teachers is concerned I am committed to ensure meritocracy,” the VC told Balochistan Review.
A way forward
Balochistan has been in a desperate need to develop higher education. Given the highest number of out of school children, education reforms at the top remain a far cry. Government decision to extend the web of universities to ensure access to higher education is a good omen, however, the university, on academic level, should make decision in a calculated manner to ensure the educational plans intended to initiate are result-oriented. An educational tweet might not entail a blue print about the entire process started to fulfil the aim of education!
Dr Hadeed* believes that the strategic position of the institution is of immense importance. If the university is established in an area having a homogenous population the learning process remains confined, but a university within a location where students could come from different sheds and cultural background ensures a broad learning process.
Note: the names are changed on the request of interviewees.