CHAKWAL: A project to establish a government postgraduate college for women on the premises of the historic Government Postgraduate College (GPC) in Chakwal has caused some controversy among educationists and the public.
The project has been launched at the behest of PML-N MNA Iffat Liaquat and her husband, MPA Chaudhry Liaquat Ali Khan.
Construction, which has begun and is to be completed by June 30, 2019, will cost Rs111.6 million.
Sources told Dawn the concerned official – the deputy director colleges – was not in favour of establishing another postgraduate college in the city. However, the higher-ups in Lahore did not pay heed to the deputy director’s reservations.
A source said: “The DDC recommended that a new degree college – not a postgraduate college – for women could be built either near Pinwal village or near Millat Chowk on Thaneel Fatohi Road, or at a deserted pond on Pinwal Road.”
The establishment of a separate college on the premises of the Government Postgraduate College has also diminished hopes that the GPC would be upgraded to a chartered university.
“If a postgraduate college for women is established on GPC land, the college is unlikely to be turned into a chartered university, as it would lose a vast portion of its land to the new under-construction college. The rest of the land would not be sufficient for a chartered university,” a faculty member said.
“Currently, 85pc of the students in eight BSc programmes and three masters programmes being run at the GPC are women. These 85pc of female students would leave GPC once a separate college is built for them on the same spot,” a senior official from the Punjab higher education department feared.
“This is perhaps the first ever example in the country of a new institution being established in a historic institution,” a lecturer said.
According to documents available with Dawn, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif approved a degree college for women in 2015. The project was reflected in the 2015-16 annual development budget, but the authorities and Mr and Mrs Liaquat could not agree on a suitable location.
On Dec 28, 2015, the then district collector (district coordination officer) wrote a letter to Ali Raza Rizvi, the deputy secretary to the chief minister, in which he mentioned two sites: 50 kanals and two marlas near Pinwal village, and 36 kanals and 18 marlas on the GPC premises.
The district collector had added an estimated cost of Rs4.8m for the land near Pinwal, which was privately owned, but the chief minister approved the construction of the college on GPC premises.
The matter was aggravated after the district officer for planning and development, on Aug 13, 2016, wrote to the deputy director colleges revealing that the name ‘Government Girls Degree College’ had been changed to ‘Government Postgraduate College for Women’.
“The existing GPC was built in 1949, on 305 kanals donated by the then member of the legislative assembly Raja Sarfraz Khan, [and] is grappling with many problems. Currently, most of the college’s 2,500 students are female, but the existing hostel only has the capacity to accommodate 30 students – that too, males.
“Due to [this], female students from remote villages have to stay at private hostels, while most girls are deprived of higher education, because the GPC does not have a separate hostel for them,” said Shahid Azad, the district president of the Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association (PPLA).
English department professor Sada Hussain said the university also needs more classrooms, as the existing rooms cannot accommodate all the students.
“There are only 55 seats in each BSc programme, and we received 250 applications just for BSc Information Technology, while 150 applicants so far have applied for BSc English. But we can only admit 55 students in each programme, while the rest are deprived of higher education.”
Under the banner of the PPLA, college faculty members held a meeting during which they condemned the construction of a separate college in the GPC campus.
“We have pleaded many times to local parliamentarians for taking some steps to fulfil the missing facilities at the college but in vain,” a joint resolution stated. It vowed that the association would go to every possible extent to resist the construction of a college within a college.
“Instead of building a women college in GPC, the Government Degree College for Women should be up-graded to postgraduate level,” the resolution added.
When contacted, MNA Iffat Liaquat said she and her spouse secured approval for the college for underprivileged women, and not to score political points.
“The college is being built at GPC because we could not find any other land,” she said. When asked about missing facilities at GPC, she said she had not been approached by the college administration in this regard.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2017