Muhammad Iqbal’s elder daughter, Mehwish, matriculated two years ago, so he worried about her future.
Someone told him that there is a government institute in a nearby town, Bucheki, which not only conducts various training courses but also charges no fee. A stipend of Rs 500 is given during the course, and an honorarium is also given on completion of the course.
Mehwish took admission in dressmaking. To go to Bucheki, she had to cover a distance of 8 km going and 8 km coming, i.e. a distance of 16 km. However, she completed the six-month dressmaking course.
After completing the training course, Mehwish received an honorarium of five thousand rupees.
With this money, Iqbal bought a sewing machine for his daughter.
Mehwish started sewing clothes for women and children in the neighbourhood. Within a short time, Mehwish started earning so much that she began supporting her family and her expenses.
Iqbal was very happy, and he shifted to Bacheki from his village for better earning opportunities for his daughter.
When his younger daughter Sidra matriculated this year, he also took her to the vocational training institute. But there, he learned that many programs in the institute have been closed due to lack of funds.
This news was alarming for him.
Iqbal works hard and has seven children: three sons and four daughters.
“I was told that the dressmaking course at the institute has been discontinued after June 2023 as the institute has no funds.”
He says that his difficulties started to decrease with the help of his daughter; if the other daughter also started helping, the conditions of the house would have improved.
Muhammad Kashif Subhani serves as Principal of Vocational Training Institute Nankana Sahib and its sub-campus, Bacheki.
He told Lok Sujag that till the beginning of this year, more than 150 students were under education at Nankana Vocational Training Institute in dressmaking, clinical assistant, refrigerator, AC mechanic, and separate computer classes for male and female students.
In June 2023, computer and clinical assistant classes had to be closed due to a lack of funds. Later, the computer course was self-financed, and students were charged Rs.8,000 per month. Currently, 20 students are enrolled in the free classes of dressmaking, refrigerator, and AC mechanics, and 22 are enrolled in the computer self-finance class.
“The situation is worse in all campuses of the district. Before June, classes for computer, beautition, dressmaking, electrical, and motorcycle mechanic courses were being given in two shifts at Vocational Training Institute Bucheki. In the first shift, 150 male and female students were in education, while 150 children were taking training courses in the second shift. These children were also given a monthly stipend of Rs.500. But after June, three of the five courses had to be closed due to insufficient funds, while the computer course was self-financed.”
Kashif says that this effect is that the number of male and female students, which was 300 before June this year, has reduced to 50.
“Vocational Training Institute Saidwala, which had 180 male and female students, has been closed due to insufficient funds. The Vocational Training Institute at Qila Mian Singh has also been closed due to lack of funds where 90 students were studying in various courses.
Due to this decline of vocational training institutes in district Nankana Sahib, not only the children who are learning skills have suffered, but also the teachers have to face difficulties. They are being transferred to other districts like Sheikhupura, Faisalabad and Lahore.
Waheed Imran has been associated with vocational training institutes established in other areas of the Nankana district for many years. Currently, he serves as the Principal of Vocational Institute Sangla Hill and its sub-campus Panwan.
He says the first vocational training institute was established in 2012 in Tehsil Sangla Hill. Before June this year, more than 200 male and female students were enrolled in other courses, but later, after a non-supply of funds, 60 children are now enrolled in only three courses free of charge, while 14 boys and girls in the computer class are getting educated with a monthly fee of eight thousand rupees.
“At the beginning of the academic year, 180 children were enrolled in various courses at the Panwan-based institute. After June 2023, only twenty students are studying here in computer and dressmaking classes. All other courses have been closed due to non-availability of funds.”
Aurangzeb Bhatti is a political and social leader who has spent most of his life in America. These days, he is working as President of the Punjab Vocational Training Council Nankana Sahib.
He says that the funds received by the vocational training institutes have been significantly reduced, due to which some institutes had to be closed entirely and some courses had to be completed in the rest.
“We are also talking to the higher authorities to resolve this issue, but there is no improvement. The government may give these institutions private ownership or subsidised courses may be started.”
Muhammad Salim is an Audit Officer in the District Zakat Department Nankana Sahib and a Member of the Vocational Training Institute Admission Committee.
He says that the district zakat department funds all the vocational training institutes in the district.
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He says that four vocational training institutes, Sangla Hill, Sub Campus Panwan, Nankana Sahib, and Sub Campus Bacheki, are functioning in District Nankana Sahib. While before June 2023, their number was six.
“The complete closure of two institutes and reduction in the number of courses in others will further reduce the grant”.
The data of the Zakat Fund confirms this.
He said that the District Zakat Department had received funds of Rs 1 crore 45 lakh from the Punjab government for the students of vocational institutes in the financial year 2019-20. In the year 2020-21 and 2021-22, there was almost the same amount, but in 2022-23, this amount was reduced to about 98 lakh rupees.
Salim says that future funds will come according to the number of students in education.
Zakat Department District Officer Hira Shaheen told Lok Sujag that people have reduced giving Zakat due to the economic crisis.
“All funds have been reduced due to non-collection of Zakat across the province, which has also had an impact on district Nankana Sahib”.
Muhammad Iqbal does not have the resources to provide further education to Sidra, and the skilling institutions are closing down.
He says rulers have money for luxuries but no funds to train the poor man’s children and give them a decent livelihood.
Published on 7 Nov 2023