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Student societies a thing of the past?

March 5, 2017 12:25 pm

Lack of adequate funds coupled with philistinism at two public sector universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has rendered student societies dysfunctional as no healthy co-curricular activities are being encouraged on the campuses. Study tours have been banned for security reasons years ago. A reliable source told this scribe that administration of University of Peshawar had stopped releasing funds for different co-curricular activities of student societies since 2014 that rendered 13 of its student societies completely dysfunctional. Lack of adequate funds and philistinism render such bodies dysfunctional in University of Peshawar and Islamia College University Mohammad Azam Khan, former chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while sharing his fond memories of his student days at Islamia College Peshawar, said that during his stay from 1994 to 1998, Khyber Union enjoyed a widespread reputation for its wonderful activities. He said that being a secretary of Khyber Union he had conducted a mock United Nations Security Council session on Kashmir issue. Mr Khan said that students should be provided with ample opportunities at the campuses to bring out their hidden leadership qualities. “I am very much in favour of student unions but it should be free from active politics. We used to hold reformative shows, seminars and group discussions to groom up students and never got involved in active politics,” he added. Students at times, contribute their pocket money to conduct an event on the campus. Experts believe that lack of involvement in positive activities on the campus may lead them to divide on ethnic, sectarian, linguistic, tribal and political lines which could prove detrimental for the society. “The university campuses must provide an academically sound, free and conducive environment where students could nourish creative ideas to face future challenges,” said Ali Rahman, an expert. Islamia College University (ICU) too has no specific funds allocation for its 13 student societies since 2008 and has been conducting no events for the last one year. Its historic trilingual literary magazine ‘Khyber’ too has not been published since the Islamia College, Peshawar upgraded to university level in 2007. Source said that teachers were also not interested to supervise such activities. “Before the college gained status of university, the administration used to collect a nominal fee under the head of ‘entertainment fund’ but now there is no such special fund in its annual budget,” a senior teacher at Islamia College University told this scribe while asking not to be named. Waga Wali, a student of Islamia College University, said that a space should be created for girl students at the campus where they could perform on stage to create awareness among students regarding different social issues. She said that girl students were barred from participating in cultural events. She said that equal opportunities should be provided to them too to show their talent. According to sources, University of Peshawar used to allocate Rs600, 000 annually for co-curricular activities of students. They said that since last year, 13 student societies had not been functional as the administration was least interested to release adequate funds to them. Sources said that no one could even think of musical concert or film show on the campus. “Earlier student societies performed very well throughout the academic sessions but now no one seems interested to encourage young brains to involve in fruitful activities, most are inclined to consumption of drugs or political activism on the campus,” they added. Prof Tajuddin Khan, a retired teacher and former student of University of Peshawar, said that a lone cinema theatre ‘Agha Khan auditorium’ in the university in early 60s and 70s would entertain students. He said that Islamia College Peshawar used to conduct different theatrical events in its Khyber Union Hall. He said that even local folk singers and artists would perform on the camps. “All kinds of cultural activities were banned following a supreme court order to clamp student unions and shut down the auditorium in 1983,” he added. A senior official at the provost office, University of Peshawar, told this scribe that administration had been encouraging students to participate in sports, literary and cultural activities and had been providing funds wherever necessary. “Student societies are active and busy in planning various activities on the campus. We have a vigilant eye on their activities. No student is involved in drugs on the campus,” he claimed. He said that study tours for students would be restored once security issues were addressed. Mohammad Javed, a student of University of Peshawar, said that students had no other option but to arrange literary and cultural activities at private hotels. He said that around 20 different private student organisations were operating on the campuses of ICP and UoP under different ethnic titles. He said that they contributed money and arranged different events outside the campus. Prof Abaseen Yousafzai, head of Khyber Union Hall, said that Islamia College University administration had always released funds for activities of 13 student societies. He added that he remained on leave for one year and then planned numerous events for respective societies for the ongoing academic year. He said that he had involved both boy and girl students in different societies. He said that ‘Khyber’ magazine would also come out after an elapse of several years. Prof Jamil Ahmad Chitrali, an anthropologist at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, UoP, said that students should be involved in healthy activities. He said that student societies were important both academically and socially to help them grow in their profession as well as in their social life. He said that it bound them in professional unity, taking them away from their kinship and tribal bonds. “In case our universities fail to train young students, it could result in serious social implications. They develop a tunnel vision, intolerance and a blurred look out on life. I suggest that hostel-based societies should be set up where students from various ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds reside under one roof,” said Prof Jamil. (News By DAWN NEWS)

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