INTERVIEW: DR. MUHAMMAD ABUZAR WAJIDI
Chairperson Department of Public Administration & Director Evening Program, University of Karachi
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
Oct 08 - 21, 2007
Every now and then, government policy makers and all and sundry emphasize the need of strong linkage between academia and industries in order to spring up corporate leaders for leading the nation into a prosperous direction and build the economy in line with the global expansion sagaciously. The synergy could produce effective and efficient people who can become driving agent of the economic growth. To our utter dismay, there is no such significant example of this affinity. If, counted on fingertips, there are few instances where educational institutions collaborated with a particular organization to work together for curriculum designing, research and development works, and exploring job avenues. However, finding jobs for a graduated became a one point agendum. Although, it is necessary both utilizing the talents of grads, what she learnt during the education and earning bread and butter not to use abilities on-study time period means brain drain to no avail. The flaws exist in the mind frames and bureaucratic structure; people are reluctant to share knowledge and information; while outdated and obsolete system of governance does not deem improving the worsening situation. In an interview with PAGE, Chairperson Department of Public Administration and Director Evening Program, University of Karachi (KU), Prof. Dr. Muhammad Abuzar Wajidi, shed lights on the numerous aspects of human resources development in Pakistan and the role alma maters should play to glorify this core socio-economic facet. He delineated, students of the department under the guidance of their mentors are nearing completion a project on human resource policies of Pakistan. This model project would be submitted to relevant government departments with in three or four months. Gradually, the enrolment of students in the evening session is increasing, which is a good sign of interest in upgrading skills.
Prof. Dr. Abuzar Wajidi has the honor of being the first Chairperson of Department of Public Administration, KU, appointed in 1997. He got his doctorate in municipal administration with reference to KMC in 1999. He has been the Dean of faculty of Arts 2001-04 and held the additional offices of Dean of Business Administration, and Caretaker Dean of faculty of Education. Amongst 200 professors of KU, he is one of the five professors entitled "Meritorious Professor". Being a Higher Education Commission (HEC) approved supervisor for the PHD in the field of Management Sciences, he holds his specialization in human resources. Dr. Abuzar has attended two sabbatical education visits to USA and Italy from KU. Department of Public Administration was bestowed upon separate departmental status in 1997.
Elaborating the educational standard of Pakistan, Dr. Abuzar said, five years ago quality of higher education was low due to tightened financial budgets. Teachers were not being paid well. The salary scale was dismally low. Following the inception of HEC, funds and grants have levered fiscal barriers at a large extent, by virtue of which, infrastructure has been improved to its present form. Now, there are substantial funds for teachers' welfare as well. Human Resource is the key for stability. To improve the working conditions of teaching as well as non-teaching staff and their skills, KU has established a Human Resource Centre. HEC has also taken a step further to constitute Quality Enhancement Cell at all public sector universities nationwide. This cell has organized many international conferences in the university. HEC-funded HR Centre organizes workshops, seminars, and symposia. It also organizes skill enhancement courses for teaching staff in order to educate them of contemporary teaching methodologies, conceptual skills, and state-of-the-art research techniques. Short courses, such as computer orientation workshops, are regularly organized for administrative staff. All in all, KU is working on a nascent dimension to get competitive advantage internationally and to produce world class talent.
Dr. Abuzar is of the view that in comparison to private sector state-run universities have structured policies that give them a clear edge. He substantiated by saying that hardly few private institutes are maintaining educational quality. They are known for their high salary scales previously the Tenure Track System is offering a similar economical advantage to the faculty of public sector universities at par. Yet again, orthodox thinking does not get TTS progressed ahead as teachers fear job security under the contractual status. TTS brings with it a rigorous annual performance evaluation system. If one gets low rated performance appraisal she might lose her job or get demoted afterwards. This is why, perhaps, teachers may detest the TTS. He hoped that with the passage of time, they would be satisfied.
While talking about academia-industry linkage, he said, there must be a sound relationship between the two. It is indispensable. Internship programs can abridge academia-corporate world gap. It is mandatory for PA students to prepare a detailed report on departments they worked with during their internships. For example, students, in recruitment or compensation section of any particular organization, will have to come up with observations and suggestions in final course work. This, he pinpointed, also gives a relevant advisory material to organization, which could patronize redesigning of organizational HR practices free of cost. He assured that 10 to 20 percent of passed-outs got job offers after completion of internship period. Internship, on one hand, opens job opportunity for fresh students and gives them an outside exposure on the other.
Replying to a question that what initiatives they have taken in this regard, he stated, Alumni of the department often involves in organizing seminars, workshops, and an annual corporate dinner to strengthen societal interaction. We don't believe on lectures and spoon feeding approaches only because students may get information on one-click. Rather, we've introduced and promoted interactive sessions and group discussions to offer them friendlier learning ambience. Dr. Wajidi opined motivation to students and confidence building measures can mobilize them in a positive direction.
Dr. Abuzar found many irregularities in government's HR policy structure. Bureaucracy and reactive approaches characterize the policy frame work of the government. Since, it has become outdated-the old-aged bureaucratic tactics are being followed-it is good for nothing. There lack people-oriented approaches. Red-tappism elongates the simple office process to days and months. To transform the sluggish system of governance, he suggested, employees should be more empowered in their capacity to take immediate action on a given issue. Government should refrain from itself meddling unnecessary in the affairs. He devised his own interesting phrases to define his ideal HR model for the private sector viz.: HR should be de-governmentized; and HR should be de-bureaucracized. He also said that senior people should need to change their mindsets related to human resources.
Evening programs has opened a window of opportunity for professionals to upgrade their skills. Courses, especially professional being offered in the evening, usually are not offered for the external candidates, who miss a chance to study at the university. Therefore, the timing suits to on-job higher education aspirants. A graph, depicted ratio of the students enrolled in the evening program during the period 1995-2007, indicated approximately 600 percent increment, which is tremendously well shoot-up. In 1995, the total number of students enrolled was 517 this figure has risen to 2937 in 2007. Obviously, this shows a growing tendency of people to enhance and upgrade their proficiencies and skills alongside jobs.
It is history when employees were told to "put their brains at the doorsteps and come with hands', now the situation has been reversed completely. Now, HR has become a recognized field in Pakistan, and it is flourishing-even though with not at fast pace-but upcoming days would bring unprecedented developments. HR is as important for education sector as for others; therefore, teachers should look for the innovation in further refurnishing teaching techniques and be aligned with the dynamics happening around. They should be well versed with the creative research modus operandi to explore their subjects and fields at threadbare. Congruently, students should try to be more vocal and eloquent. They must be motivated to and dedicated with their aims of life, he encapsulated lastly.