We need to financially support the meritorious students
Nestled under the cool shades of overarching Chinars, a courteous L-shaped wooden building roofed with green tin, and flaunting a well kept expansive green lawn, houses The Centre for Career Planning and Counseling. This centre is headed by Prof. Muhammad Amin Sahaf who sits in his chamber with 30 years teaching experience. In a candid conversation with GK Magazine’s Muhamamd Tahir, Prof. Sahaf gives his reasons why scholarships are indispensable for excellence in higher education.
What are your views about the significance of scholarships?
Almost all the universities are offering study programmes at a cost, which most of the times, an average income group finds difficult to bear. Then we say universities must be capable of generating funds internally for functioning, because government can not afford huge funds for longer period of time. So, naturally we are left with no option but to increase fee structure that puts extra burden on students from economically weaker section.
As a dean, I have seen many students with good merit approaching me, asking for fee concessions or financial assistance, but we could not afford because of limited resources. Ultimately, they left the programme. If we have to promote excellence in education we need to financially support the meritorious students, so that they can explore their true potential.
How many scholarships does the University of Kashmir offer to its students?
What we are providing presently can hardly be called as scholarship. Scholarship should at least offer substantial amount which can meet the basic needs of a student. If UGC [University Grants Commission] provides 18000 per month for a student, we should offer at least five to six thousand per month. But under the present circumstances, it is not possible for the university to offer such an amount.
Have you approached the government for increasing the number of scholarships?
We have submitted proposals at both state and centre level to give us some funding which we can utilize for the purpose of scholarships.
Many Kashmiri students are now pursuing their education abroad and they have gone there on their own. Do you encourage and guide students from Kashmir University to compete for international scholarships?
I consider my experience as basis for analysis and I can quote with confidence that our students are best in the world. But unfortunately what we lack is exposure and commitment. Commitment by and large is not an individual affair. It is a societal affair.
Most students prefer to use an ordinary program where they can get opportunities as quickly as possible which is not the right approach. You have to find out the opportunities according to your own potential. So first you have to identify the potential which most of the students from Kashmir are not aware about.
Last year we conducted a number of workshops, and majority of those who attended did not use the discussions for career planning. Kashmiri do not even use 20 per cent of their potential because of wrong career selection. We are misfits for the jobs. Somebody good in journalism finds himself in banking industry, somebody good in education lands in marketing. We never think in terms of identifying the potential and matching that potential with the job requirements.
As far as the Jammu and Kashmir Bank is concerned, it is one of the biggest corporate houses in J&K. Don’t you think it should have a provision for scholarships?
As far as Corporate Social Responsibility is concerned, it is not obligatory for J&K Bank, but as a part and parcel of the society it becomes a responsibility for the bank to pay the society in which it operates. It should have at least four to five scholarships in each discipline, which it can easily do. It should select best students on the basis of merit and give them scholarships. Education should be their first priority as far as social responsibility is concerned.
What about higher education department. Is it fulfilling its responsibility in this matter?
The higher education department of the State government does not have scholarship programme. Higher education should have provision for scholarships. Let them conduct a test and select meritorious students and grant scholarships to them. But unfortunately, government of J&K is not serious about it. There are talented students who cannot afford prestigious programmes and it is the responsibility of the higher education department to support them financially, so that their talent does not go waste.
Has any student been selected for a foreign scholarship through this Centre so far?
This centre is not concerned with scholarships. Its simple mandate is to provide coaching, counseling and in addition to that placement.
What are your suggestions to the Government?
Government should fix free education. Free education is no more free education; the cost is involved, although the fact is that government has never promised free education in institutions of higher learning. But at the same time, for good students who are meritorious and hardworking but belong to a particular segment of population who cannot afford the cost of education, they should be offered scholarships and the scholarships amount should be of an amount sufficient to meet the basic needs, like hostel expenditure and tuition fees.
Don’t you think government of Jammu and Kashmir should come up with a concrete policy in this regard?
The policy of scholarships needs to be debated in the State; it should be supported by commitment and legislation. But unfortunately, we do not have that state policy. Even educational loan is not offered by the government. Poor fellows cannot afford to pay huge amount in interest that Banks charge. I have seen many students getting educational loan from J&K Bank and they have to pay huge amount in the form of interest. And what is their fault is that they were born in a family that is not financially so strong. The basic thing is that we lack policies.
There are many organizations like DAAD, China Scholarship Council, and British Council who offer prestigious scholarships. Can this Centre invite them here for informative sessions so that Kashmiri students get to know how to apply for these scholarships?
The first thing is that they cannot come here. But what we can do is that we can write to them, find the details about their scholarships and we can offer those details to our students. But the fact is that is not sufficient. The programmes for which these scholarships are offered are of highest merit and as far as our students are concerned they lack in academic merit, although they have potential. If these scholarships are granted on the basis of written test then our students can compete. The problem is that since these scholarships are granted on the basis of academic merit, they have to compete with students with 80 or 90 percentages in post-graduation, while the highest percentage our students get is in the range of 60 or 70.
If some students are applying for foreign universities and they need to prepare for tests like TOEFL and GRE, does this centre provide coaching for these tests?
Providing coaching for these tests need two things: first, the need; second, the resources. We can arrange the resources, but they should be properly utilized. How many students from Kashmir do apply for such tests? In a year, may be five or six. We cannot bear huge cost for mere six students. You won’t believe, we provide coaching for civil services and even for that the response is sometimes 90 students and sometimes 10 students. The cost goes in lakhs and you have to get experts from outside and for 10 students we cannot do that. We have to justify our expenditure. The system won’t allow us to spend lakhs of rupees for just few students.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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