Pak Afghan Youth Forum (PAYF) held an open forum which allowed students to freely discuss the challenges, issues, and problems they face, and actually be heard and answered. This was part of our Youth Jirga series. Our aim was to achieve some mutually acceptable recommendations and problem-solving initiatives on how to improve the facilitation of Afghan students in our institutions and pave the way for regional connectivity was achieved through this event. The involvement of several key figures dealing with Pakistani Higher Education greatly underscored the importance of our mission and highlighted the importance of our forum in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The major issues faced by Afghan students have to do with the process of applying for, and getting scholarships, university admissions in fields and cities of interest, as well as in visa processing. Another issue is in the facilitation of personal references during scholarship selection when the declared process claims to be merit-based. This form of corruption is disheartening for hard-working students who are unable to avail scholarships. Other concerns with the process of selection were also raised. Furthermore, there was a discussion on the steps taken for the orientation of Afghan students, to help them assimilate into the Pakistani universities. Other than this, Afghan students expressed deep appreciation for their universities and the Pakistani education system.
Mr. Jahanzaib Khan, the Director of the Afghan Directorate of HEC, and Ms. Wajiha Akram, Parliamentary Secretary for Federal Education, were both available to cater to the students’ questions and concerns. Several issues about the selection process, as well as the university placement decisions were cleared up. Mr. Jahanzaib Khan strongly stated that any official found to be guilty of malpractice or of undermining the merit-based selection, would face grave consequences, but that due to the thorough, multi-step mechanism of selection, there was a need for students to report any such malpractice they witness.
Both officials assured the students that their concerns were heard and would translate into policy action wherever possible. They explained the multifactorial reasoning behind university placements, as well as the support offered to students who seem to be struggling academically, in the form of transferring departments, etc. They also informed the students in detail of the focal people they can contact in case of any issue, as well as of WhatsApp and email helplines dedicated to their concerns specifically. They said that if the students were ever dissatisfied with those channels of complaint and enquiry, they would be happy to personally cater to the students.
Pak Afghan Youth Forum was appreciated for creating this space for an open discussion between those upholding the Pakistani education system and those Afghans that seek to benefit from it.