The University of Balochistan, the largest and oldest university in the province, is facing an ongoing financial crisis. Unpaid salaries have led to a strike and teaching boycott by the Joint Action Committee, resulting in the suspension of classes, offices, and transportation services at the university and its sub-campuses.
Teachers and professors, who are currently protesting against the provincial government, are calling for fair treatment and chanting “Provide the employees with the right to live.” This issue highlights the province’s ongoing marginalization and lack of constructive debate.
It is quite disheartening to observe that the employees working in the secretariat in the province receive higher salaries and benefits compared to the professors at the UOB. The significance of teachers in society cannot be overlooked. It is crucial to acknowledge their role by providing them with adequate incentives to enhance their quality of life. Finding a lasting and sustainable resolution to UOB’s financial crisis is of utmost importance. The Federal and Provincial Governments bear the primary responsibility of investing massively in higher education to create avenues for growth in science, technology, research and development.
The provincial government of Baluchistan presented a budget of 700 billion rupees for the year 2022-23, out of which only 2.50 billion rupees were allocated as grants and aid to the 11 universities in the province. This amount, by and large, is insufficient to address the financial needs of the universities. On the other hand, the federal budget for the year 2022 was 10 thousand billion rupees, out of which only 65 billion rupees were allocated for the recurring budget of all the universities in the country. This amount is also inadequate for higher education, especially in the field of science, technology, research and development. Given that these are public sector universities, it is the primary responsibility of the Federal and Provincial Governments to provide financial support as mandated by the United Nations Organization which has recommended investing at least four percent of GDP in the education sector. On the contrary, Pakistan merely invests less than two percent of its GDP in education.
To tackle the ongoing financial crisis at the University of Baluchistan, the following measures must be implemented
- After the 18th Amendment, it is the responsibility of the Provincial Government to establish the Higher Education Commission HEC in the province. Following the lead of the Governments of Punjab and Sindh, the Government of Baluchistan should also consider establishing the HEC to address the financial crisis of the UOB.
- The United Nations Organisation UNO states that member states should allocate a minimum of four percent of their GDP towards the education sector. Pakistan, being one of the founding members of the UNO, should adhere to this resolution and invest a minimum of four percent of its GDP towards the education sector.
- It is imperative that both the Federal and Provincial Governments increase the recurring and development budget for universities by at least two-fold.
- The provincial government ought to raise the Grants-in-Aid for all public sector universities in Baluchistan to at least Rs.10 billion.
- Creating an Endowment Fund of Rs.10 billion could serve as a long-term solution to address the financial crisis of the University.
- Special funds should be allocated for scholarships and research opportunities for both faculty and students.
- The people of Baluchistan should be given a quota for officers and employee ranks in HEC Islamabad.
- In today’s neo-liberal world, knowledge is the most significant factor for economic growth. Developed countries are using their knowledge to build strong economies. The UOB has nearly 200 experts who should also reflect on ways to generate funds.
- Admittedly, in the contemporary world, competition is crucial for survival. We need to establish a competitive atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the key to progress and development lies in attaining quality education which is only possible through the provision of adequate funds. Despite being small in terms of area, population and resources, several countries have prioritized education and have now become developed nations. It is crucial for Pakistan in general and Baluchistan in particular to reassess strategies and should consider unconventional approaches to modernising education.
Courtesy Pakistan Observer