Pakistan is among the countries with lowest literacy rates, whereas the proportion of population acquiring higher education is much, much lower. Poverty is one reason for this scenario. Utilizing time in seeking education is seen as an opportunity cost by many. According to them, the time utilized in studying could be utilized in earning to feed the family. This argument is often raised when considering higher education.
Having 23.4% of population living below poverty line in Pakistan, this concern is valid, as the opportunity cost is not only related to time, but also to money i.e. financial resources. Even though a lot of NGOs have started investing in the primary and secondary level education, the tertiary education sector remains mostly neglected. Even, there might be many govt. schools and colleges across Pakistan, but the number of government universities are handful specially considering the size of the young population in the country.
It has been in the limelight that the number of students willing to pursue higher education, globally, is increasing every year and for that reason, more private universities are emerging to meet the demand. However, the cost of studying in private sector universities is heftier than that of public sector universities. And the fact that only a small portion of brilliant minds are admitted in public universities and most of the students are diverted to private sector universities implies that most of the students pursing higher education in Pakistan belongs to well-off families leading to economic disparity in Pakistan.
According to UNDP Sustainable Development Goal number 04, which is to make quality education accessible to all, disparities in education is mostly along the lines of gender, urban-rural location and other obvious dimensions. Thus, in order to have a sustainable future, Pakistan has to eradicate such disparities and establish a need blind admission system. This way Pakistan can be brought out of this vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy leading to economic disparity.
Considering the aforementioned condition of higher education sector of Pakistan, Ihsan Trust introduced a sustainable model of enabling higher education and eradicating economic disparity in Pakistan.
Ihsan Trust (IT) is a nonprofit organization, founded in January 7, 2010. The major focus of Ihsan Trust is in the domain of providing interest-free loans to the students if universities and professional bodies across Pakistan. Through this scheme, Ihsan Trust bears the educational expenses of the students on purely “Need cum Merit” basis in order to enable them to complete their Higher Education in the form of interest-free loan.
Scholarship vs Ihsan Trust Model
Ihsan Trust decided to provide interest-free loan rather than scholarships because interest-free loans are more sustainable than scholarship. To become a bridge for students for completing their higher education all that needs to be done is to assist them while they are studying. After the completion of education, the individual is stable enough to return the amount invested on him/her leading Ihsan Trust to help more students in future. Unlike scholarships, interest-free loans have a roll over effect while inducing a sense of responsibility in students and a drive to achieve more.
So far, Ihsan Trust has provided financial assistance to more than 2,400 students of 125 universities and professional bodies of Pakistan including students of IBA, LUMS, GIKI, NUST, DOW, NED, COMSATS etc. Many of those, who have completed their studies, are now securing good positions in large multinationals and local companies such as Coca Cola company, Unilever, Shell, PARCO etc. The students assisted were from humble backgrounds and today they are leading professionals in their respective fields. Since, the assistance is through interest-free loan, the roll-over funds has enabled Ihsan Trust to help students through their own repayments. About 40% of the funding of students was done through repayments in the year 2018 alone. This percentage is expected to increase in further years which implies that more students will be assisted through this model in future.
Ihsan Trust’s model has been acknowledged internationally as well as Ihsan Trust also won an Islamic Economy award in 2017.
IT has played a significant role in empowering women of Pakistan. It has been in notice that number of women pursuing higher education is lower than that of men in Pakistan. Perhaps again, poverty is one reason for this turnout. A family who can afford the higher education of only one child in the family, often choose the male child, irrespective of merit.
However, IT believes that higher education is the right of every eligible student. Ihsan Trust has facilitated many female students of different universities in Pakistan. About 50% of IT alumni base are women, some of whom are now working in large multinationals and local companies in Pakistan and are able to change the financial condition of their families.
What have been achieved is just the tip of the ice-berg. Every year hundreds of students forward their case to Ihsan Trust, when only few hundreds get entertained. Like every business model, Ihsan Trust, in order to sustain, requires an external push every now and then to increase the number of students facilitated by them.
But that is not an obstacle in their way, it is just an opportunity for others to be a part of this great initiative and noble cause. Be it corporations or individual donors, this initiative is a sustainable investment in higher education of Pakistan and will brighten the future of the country.