June 26, 2020
By Zulfiqar Kunbhar
While students across the country protest the digital divide they are facing, in Larkana, a poor educational infrastructure at an engineering college that is delaying degree programs for almost two years for every batch. Delayed degrees mean denial of jobs for engineering graduates, trampling their educational rights and theirs right to work and to access employment.
The Quaid-e-Awam University of Engineering, Science & Technology (QUEST) in Larkana is a constituent college of QUEST Nawabshah. But because it is not issuing its students accreditation, it has ended up in stretching a four year Bachelors of Engineering Program to almost six years. Accreditation is acquired from the regulatory body of Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), mandatory for every engineer to seek engineering jobs anywhere in Pakistan. A delay in this accreditation has denied the graduates’ their right to get a jobs.
Over 1,000 former and current students of different batches who are still waiting for their issuance of accreditation are protesting against this since some time. They say their right to get employment is being compromised on an issue related to facilities for which they are not guilty of. In fact their right to quality education is being denied by authorities. It was between college administration and government to provide suitable environment that suits PEC in issuing accreditation, they urge.
A Four Year Program Becomes Never-Ending
According to the University website (https://quest.edu.pk/qucest/aboutqucest.html), QUEST Larkana campus was established in 2009 to cater to the needs of the upper region of Sindh. The first batch began in 2010. The college offers a 4 year Bachelor of Engineering Program in four disciplines including Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Electronic Engineering. At present there are around 800 students enrolled in the campus.
According to procedure, a team of PEC experts visit the campus and observe the different facilities being provided to the students and then if satisfied issue accreditation. Facilities include provision of laboratories, availability of required machines and appointments of lab engineers to conduct the students’ practicals. The requirement of facilities also includes that regular practicals should be held, study tours should be held and each department should have three to four PhD holders within the faculty.
As per the preset procedure, a batch entering the seventh semester is eligible for PEC accreditation process.
Dr Intesab Hussain Sadhayo, Director QUEST (Larkana campus) told Voicepk.net that at the moment the issue of PEC’s pending accreditation has affected a total of 1,158 students (former and current) at the Larkana campus. “The nature of the withheld accreditation varies into three types,” he explains. According to Dr Sadhayo, the first group are some 180 students who belong to old passed out batches.
“Students of the 2014 batch (Mechanical Department), 2015 batch (Mechanical Department and Civil Department) are still in queue to get the PEC accreditation. For instance the 2014 batch (Mechanical Department) has been waiting for the PEC accreditation for almost two years. PEC withheld its accreditation on basis of these batches not meeting the criteria,” he informed.
The second group is of 194 students who belongs to the 2016 batch that passed out in February this year. “As far as this batch is concerned, the PEC did not put any objection. However the 2016 batch is also in queue waiting to receive accreditation. The worst part is that they will only get it once the older batches are cleared. Normally it takes around five months to complete the process of accreditation once the PEC team pays a confirmatory visit,” he says.
“Finally the third group in-waiting for PEC accreditation is of 784 students and this is currently enrolled at the campus,” Dr Sadhayo said.
Sadhayo also added that the COVID-19 lockdown has also slowed the process of accreditation. “Things have slowed down terribly,” he says. “The PEC team visit was not possible during lockdown. PEC has hinted to give some leniency for the students however, so there is hope that there will be some speeding up in the procedure.”
On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, the students of QUEST Larkana campus took to Twitter to register their protest. Students ran hash tag #RegisterPECQuestLrk that trended on top in Pakistan demanding PEC to issue accreditation.
Amjad Ali Roongho is one of the older graduates whose accreditation was withheld by PEC. He belongs to the 2015 batch from Civil Department. His entire batch passed out in December 2018 but PEC withheld the accreditation of two departments’ including Civil.
“By law the accreditation procedure should start as soon as a batch enters its 7th semester,” he lamented. “But in our case even though our batch passed out a year and a half back, we are still waiting for PEC registration. This is sheer injustice and violation of Articles 18, 25 and 37 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” he informs. Without the accreditation, Roongho says, the degree is ‘just a piece of paper’. There is no value of such a degree in the professional market as it denies graduates from getting jobs.
“After graduation I appeared in OGDCL and WAPDA tests against their job advertisements and cleared both,” he informs Voicepk.net. “But because I had no accreditation, I could not get any of the jobs. With PEC accreditation there is no job in any private firm either.” He says there are already limited job opportunities for engineers in Pakistan. “And when they do come our way, we cannot even apply because of this issue,” he added.
He says that QUEST Larkana campus was probably the only engineering college in Pakistan that completed degree programs with such a delay, and blames all stakeholders including PEC, university administration and the Sindh government responsible for this debacle.
Without the accreditation, Roongho says, the degree is ‘just a piece of paper’. There is no value of such a degree in the professional market as it denies graduates from getting jobs.
“If QUEST Larkana was not fulfilling formalities for years, then why does PEC own this college? Once PEC stops owning the college until it clears all its batches, hurdles will automatically be removed. But while there are already students in queue for accreditation and at the same time fresh batches are being enrolled, they all end up with the same fate,” he said.
He added that Sindh government was not issuing enough funds for this institution to run its affairs smoothly, and the brunt of it falls upon its students.
But he believes the University was playing with the students’ future.
“The university administration complains of deficiency of funds. But there were enough funds available during the initial years of campus’ establishment,” he says. “Even then accreditation was delayed. Even the present university management wants to trap the government, and is pressurizing it to give more funds and is using our protest for this,” he adds.
Misbah Katpar, a graduate of QUEST Larkana from Electronics Department of the 2016 batch demanded that it was the students’ rights to get PEC registration. She appealed for justice in this regard.
On Twitter she said: “Don’t neglect those who are passing out from Larkana. Don’t neglect Larkanians. It is our right to get PEC Registration. We want PEC. We want Justice. #RegisterPECuestLrk”.
Degree without PEC registration is just a piece of paper. This is clearly an injustice to the students of Quest Larkana. PEC registration is the basic right of students. #RegisterPECQuestLrk pic.twitter.com/pNRuFcVbRq
— Aqsa Kinjhar Leela Jamali (@AqsaLeelaJamali) June 23, 2020
Tanveer Menon, another student from 2016 batch from Civil Department demanded that PEC should issue accreditation to the 2016 batch so that they could apply for jobs.
Despite repeated attempts, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Advisor to the Sindh Chief Minister on Educational Boards and Universities, Saeed Ghani the Sindh Minister for Education and Literacy and Engineer Jawed Salim Qureshi the Chairman of PEC were not available for comment .
Root Cause of Withheld Accreditation
Administration of QUEST Larkana campus acknowledges the lack of educational facilities which are meant to satisfy PEC standards but links the issue with an acute shortage of funds.
— Sabreena Ali???????? (@engr_sab) June 23, 2020
Dr Intesab links objections often raised by PEC while issuing accreditation with sub-standard education which, in his opinion, is deep rooted with the limited resources the campus has.
“We have a budgetary issue for the campus that is why there is a lack of certain facilities,” admits Dr Sadhayo. “QUEST Larkana Capmus does not have a regular separate budget actually. Lack of funds leads to issues including purchase of laboratory equipment, reduced study tours in limited transport expenditure, and purchasing of new books among other things,” he said.
— Engr Zahid Ali Baloch (@EngrZahidAliBa5) June 23, 2020
Whatever QUEST Larkana gets financially from its parent organization QUEST Nawabshah, is in terms of staff salary who are around 300 in number. But recently there was a protest held in the campus over non-payments of staff salaries as well.
Even in terms of regular expenditures including utility bills, security, fuel and medical expanses QUEST Larkana is in debt of Rs3 to 4million every month, while the campus is already in debt of Rs8 to 9million in total.