“My name is Dr Gulshan Rasheed. I belong to Jampur, a tehsil of district Rajanpur. My father is an electrician by profession. It was difficult for my father to manage the expenses of my education. I still remember when my family faced a lot of criticism from relatives and friends as they allowed me to migrate to Lahore for higher studies. Education, especially for females, is considered a shameful practice in isolated areas like Jampur. The portal for my higher education seemed to be closing down but the bold step taken by my family gave me the confidence to work hard. Eventually, I scored good marks in the intermediate and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and succeeded in getting admission to MBBS at Fatima Jinnah Medical University, Lahore. Financial constraints were still there, but trust in Allah alleviated my worries. My parents and I felt immense pride when I received a merit-based scholarship from the Punjab Education Endowment Fund (PEEF). This scholarship was very helpful during my MBBS. My becoming a doctor has earned respect for our family in our area. After finishing my degree, I started my career as a house officer at the Ganga Ram Hospital in Lahore.”
Another PEEF beneficiary recounts his experience.
“I am Najam-Ud-Din. I hail from a village near Sargodha. My father is a heart patient and runs a general store. I am the youngest of six siblings in the family. When we grew older and started to study, it was difficult for my father to make ends meet. My parents dreamed for their children to get higher education. However, financial constraints came in the way. To cope with this situation, I started a part-time job and also gave tuition to students whilst studying myself. I scored good marks in BS (Hons) and secured admission in MS Forensic Chemistry at Government College University (GCU), Lahore. But the lack of financial resources was a continuous worry. When I started my MS degree, I came to know about PEEF scholarships from the students’ resource office at the university. I applied immediately for a PEEF master’s level scholarship.
It was a day of immense joy for my family and me when I received a letter from PEEF informing me that I was selected for the scholarship. Not having to worry about my fees boosted my confidence so much that I was able to study with full devotion. I scored third position in my programme and also won the ‘Student of Session Award’ in the final exams. I am happy to announce that I was appointed as a junior forensic scientist at Punjab Forensics Science Agency after finishing my degree.”
The PEEF is a significant initiative that aims to provide financial assistance and scholarships to talented and deserving students in the province of Punjab. It was established to ensure that lack of financial resources did not hinder bright students from accessing higher education. Shehbaz Sharif, the former chief minister of Punjab, played a pivotal role in the establishment and expansion of the PEEF, a collaborative effort involving the government, the private sector, and various stakeholders.
In 2008-09, the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund was established under the umbrella of The Companies Act 2017 as a section 42 organisation. As a not-for-profit entity, PEEF was created with a resolute mission: to facilitate educational opportunities for underprivileged but gifted students, with a particular focus on Punjab, while also reserving a portion of its efforts for students from other federating units.
Shehbaz Sharif’s government formulated policies and allocated substantial resources to ensure the effective implementation of PEEF, emphasising the value of investing in human capital for the province, as well as the country’s development.
PEEF functions with a proactive approach to identify and select deserving students across the nation. Over the years, it has meticulously developed a streamlined process of selection and disbursement of scholarships that minimises the burden on students. Rather than requiring students to visit the PEEF office for formalities, PEEF reaches out to them, making the credential verification process effortless and efficient.
To foster unity and harmony among all regions of Pakistan, PEEF dedicates 5 per cent of its scholarships to students from other provinces. From secondary school students to master’s and PhD scholars, PEEF has thus far awarded an impressive 450,000 scholarships, amounting to a substantial Rs28 billion. The annual scholarship allocation is based on income projections for the year from its investments without seeking a budgetary grant from the Government of Punjab. PEEF has also successfully executed projects in collaboration with international donors, as well as federal and provincial governments.
One noteworthy project ran from 2013 to 2021, in partnership with the Department for International Development / Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, UK, awarding 87,000 scholarships to female students in southern Punjab at a total project cost of Rs3 billion.
Under then Chief Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif’s leadership, the fund expanded its reach and scope, increasing the number of scholarships and beneficiaries, and covering a wider array of educational programmes.
The Government of Punjab provided an initial endowment of Rs2 billion to establish PEEF. As of June 2023, the total funding from the Government of Punjab has increased to an impressive Rs13.8 billion. Following the board’s directives, 10 per cent of the annual proceeds from investments have been reinvested, bringing the total endowment value to Rs16.178 billion as of June 2023. These investments have been strategically managed from both long-term and short-term perspectives, in accordance with the guidelines of the Finance Department of the Government of Punjab.
To meet the standards of transparency and accountability, PEEF’s annual audits and half-yearly reviews are meticulously conducted by top accounting firms in Pakistan. The auditors have consistently issued unqualified audit reports over the years. The Auditor General of Pakistan, Commercial Audit Wing, has accepted these audits through June 2022 as valid.
To meet statutory requirements, PEEF maintains an independent internal audit function that directly reports to the board of directors. This internal audit thoroughly examines all functional departments, with its findings presented to the audit committee and the board for scrutiny.
- Total No. of Scholarships Awarded: 449,924
- Total Amount Disbursed on Account of Scholarship Stipend (Rs.): 02 billion
- Total No. of Active / Continuing Scholars: 22,050
- Scholarships allocation for FY 2023-24: 19,000
The time has come for Pakistan to replicate the success of projects like PEEF in other provinces, as it holds the potential to combat poverty, ignorance, and illiteracy, fostering a transformative revolution throughout the country.
The writer is a political activist and works in youth development.