ISLAMABAD, MAR 7: The United States government on Tuesday announced 500 new scholarships for Pakistani university students from flood-affected districts to “assist them in completing their degrees”.
The calamitous Pakistan floods of 2022 were the tenth most expensive climate disaster to have buffeted a nation over the last decade. The floods inflicted an estimated loss of $3 billion on the country, caused over 1,700 deaths and displaced eight million people.
In January, international donors met in Geneva and committed over $9bn to help Pakistan recover from the flood but the United Nations said a day ago that so far donors have fulfilled only 40 per cent of the pledges they made.
A press release issued from the US embassy in Islamabad said US Ambassador Donald Blome announced the scholarships at an event “celebrating the achievements of female scholars in honour of International Women’s Day” at the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
Present at the event were Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lieutenant General Inam Haider Malik, HEC Executive Director Dr Shaista Sohail, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Reed Aeschliman, university vice chancellors, students and alumni.
“The United States, through USAID, has supported scholarships for meritorious yet financially disadvantaged students to pursue higher education at top Pakistani universities,” the press release reads.
It added that in partnership with the HEC, the US government has awarded over 6,000 scholarships through the Merit and Needs Based Scholarship Programme.
“Sixty per cent of those scholarships have been awarded to women as part of the US government’s support for women’s higher education,” the press release stated.
“International Women’s Day not only serves as a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements made by our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters. It is also a call to action to accelerate gender parity and to dismantle gender stereotypes,” the press release quoted Ambassador Blome as saying.
HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed remarked that the US government’s support to strategic sectors in Pakistan, especially the higher education sector, was “commendable”.
“Not only have these scholarships helped secure university education for many underprivileged students, lifting themselves and their families out of poverty, they have helped supply Pakistan with crucial skills and knowledge sets to drive the economy,” he added.
“Pakistan has suffered from catastrophic floods where millions of people lost their homes and livelihoods. The humanitarian response by the United States and other donors is commendable. We welcome US support for flood-affected students,” the press release quoted the planning minister as saying.
Jennifer Andleeb, a scholarship alumna, shared the challenges she faced in attaining higher education and how her scholarship “transformed the trajectory of her life”.
“She emphasised that positive changes in society could only happen by investing in education, and that empowered, educated women are critical to ensuring a brighter future for Pakistan,” the press release reads.