Those who fail to learn a lesson from their past
mistakes are doomed to repeat them, so goes an old and time-tested
saying. The prologue is prompted by the Sindh Government's directive to
almost three-and-a-half dozen higher education institutes, most of them
based in Karachi, to close down their illegal operations. The action
prompted by instructions by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) based
in the federal capital.
The Education Department's Task Force on Higher
Education served final notices to the administrations of 42 private
higher education institutions, of whom 39 are located in Karachi and one
each in Hyderabad, Sukkur and Nawabshah, to get their institutions
registered by March 20 or face 'forcible' closure of their campuses.
Many of the institutions have been operating for many
years with enrollment running in hundreds. Many of them have already
closed down their operations years ago. The provincial government's
charge-sheet against these private institutions, which were allowed to
operate without any hindrance thus far, include a range of charges —
the foremost being their failure to get the approval from the HEC or
provincial education department. Many of them are also charged as
All these institutions are offering degree programmes
and many of them claim to have collaborations with foreign universities
the validity of which should have been verified by the relevant
authorities in the first place. However, as usual the institutions which
have been allowed to operate with full impunity are suddenly being
declared "illegal and fake" by the provincial education
The question is, what takes the Sindh Government that
long to "find out" that these institutions were
"illegal"? Is it a matter of mere failure of registration with
the Sindh Education Department or offering degrees without the approval
of the HEC? The primary reason for the action taken against these
private institutions as cited by the Additional Secretary Education
Sindh was to "ensure authensity of these 42 institutions" as
directed by the HEC.
A more important question, however, is that if the
registration of these institutions would make them "clean" to
operate once again even if the foreign affiliations they claim are
fakes? The stress on the "registration" and absence of any
mentioning to ascertain the quality of education and the claimed
affiliations are another areas of concerns particularly as it fails to
justifies accusing many of these institutions as fakes.
What happens if many of the institutions choosing to
register as per the official directive to make them "legal"
later turns out to have fake foreign affiliations? Would that still make
them legal because they got the approval of the HEC to award the degrees
and got themselves registered with the provincial education department.
Isn't the latest drive to cleanse the province of unscrupulous private
institutions which charge hefty fees half-baked for its failure to
include investigations of such important matter of whether a institution
is really affiliated with a foreign university?
Yet another question is that why these institutes
were allowed to operate in the first place if they did not fulfil the
conditions required and why no action were taken against them till now.
Either the relevant authorities were wrong then or they are wrong now.
When the provincial education department accuses these private
institutions as "illegal" and "fake" it is actually
pointing one of its own fingers towards itself for failing to do its
job. These institutions were working out in the open for many years and
were not something that could easily be concealed under the very eyes
and nose of the relevant departments who for reasons unknown have only
awaken from slumber recently.
While many of the institutions named by the education
department have already wrapped up their operations there are many which
have hundreds of students on their enrollment lists. Needless to say,
the parents of these students have invested enormous amounts of monies,
energy and time to ensure their children get a degree that promises them
lucrative jobs in the future. However, the hopes of these parents who
have invested in the future of their children so heavily in more ways
than money have can be smashed if they don't register by 20th of next
It is not hard to visualise the impact that the
education department's latest move may have on the careers of students
enrolled with these institutions, many of whom boast enjoying
affiliations with prestigious foreign universities. It has happened
before and it seems to happen yet again. If our memories serve us right
we may remember that in not-so-distant past, hundreds of students
enrolled in private medical colleges in Karachi suddenly found
themselves that they don't have any classes to go to. Their medical
careers were cut short midway when private medical colleges were closed
under similar circumstances resulting in heavy financial losses to the
parents who paid enormous fees and other expenses well in advance.
And yet, we never learnt a lesson to check the
workings of private higher education to help ensure that no such
incident happens in the future to protect the public interest that can
have such dire consequences. The education department has failed us
before and it has failed us again.