KARACHI: Eighteen-year-old Saira Batool never thought she would get enrolled at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), especially when she was studying at Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Block 6, Gulshan-e-Iqbal.
“To become a doctor was my passion,” shared Batool, who secured the fourth position in her intermediate examinations in the pre-medical programme. “But it is a common perception that students from public schools are not capable enough as compared to those studying at private schools.”
Today, the doctor-to-be is the only student from a public school in her class of around 350 students in DUHS. She is in her first year of Bachelor’s of Medicine (MBBS). She said that for a public school student, despite being intelligent and hardworking, it is difficult to survive among classmates. Moreover, it is not easy for her to come up with the funds to pay her tuition fee. She pays her own fee by working hard, giving tuitions to younger children. Belonging to a not very affluent family, she enjoys little financial support from her family.
Furthermore, Batool saved the money she received as Girls’ Stipend from the education department to pay for her educational expenses before getting enrolled in DUHS. “With the help of Girls’ Stipend, I paid my college fee for both years and even managed to buy a few essential things needed for college,” she said.
Besides Batool, two of her other classmates from school, Saira Jabbar and Pirah Abdul Ghaffar, also saved the amount they received as Girls’ Stipend. Nineteen-year-old Jabbar, who is completing her Bachelor’s of Sciences in commerce from Karachi University, shared that all three of them used to save their stipends to buy their copies, shoes, lunchboxes and even uniforms for college. She also said that the amount of Rs2,500, which she used to get as stipend, was a source of encouragement from the education department. “I used to save the stipend money as much as possible so that I could utilise it in my college fee,” added Jabbar.
For Ghaffar, who belongs to a middle-class family, the stipend served as something that lessened the burden of her studies on her family. “It is not a big amount but still it helps in buying essential items such as registers and notebooks,” she said. “The college provided us books but we had to buy notebooks and registers on our own.” She is currently doing her Bachelor’s of Business Administration from a private university.
While she gives tuitions to younger students to earn some money, her brother also supports her financially. Her mother, Mrs Ghaffar, is proud of her daughter and her two friends who have saved their money and utilised it for their education. “Doing what these girls have done is not easy as the students from government schools are always discouraged,” she stated.
What is Girls’ Stipend
The Girls’ Stipend is a fund ranging between Rs2,500 and Rs3,500 for all the girls studying at public schools from classes six till Matric, given by the education and literacy department of the Sindh government. Besides free books and free education, the education department adopts different measures to retain female students. “To increase enrolment in schools and to stop the dropout ratio of females, we are giving Girls’ Stipend to students annually,” said the education department’s Reform Support Unit (RSU) chief programme manager, Faisal Ahmed Uqaili.
Explaining the procedure of stipend distribution, Uqaili told The Express Tribune that every girl studying in government schools is eligible for the stipend. “We have changed the system from post office this year to Easypaisa and ATM,” he added.
Firstly, the school principals provide a list of students to the education department, which is verified by the RSU. “From academic year 2015-2016, we have shifted all the data online after scrutiny,” he said.
How to receive your stipend According to Uqaili, there are three ways to receive your stipend. The first method involves RSU team sending a message with ID and passcode to the girls, after which they can get their stipend through Easypaisa once the verification of their father’s computerised national identity card (CNIC) number is done. “Secondly, we also provide them with ATM cards for one-time use so they can get the transaction done from any bank branch,” added Uqaili. The third way to receive your stipend is when the RSU team visits each school and provides the girls with envelope containing their ID and passcodes, from which they can receive money via Easypaisa. Students’ names get written off the computerised list once the amount is disbursed on the CNIC number registered on their names, said Uqaili, explaining how they manage the transparent disbursement of stipend.