The small campus of the first-ever Fata University in a section of the Government Degree College Darra Adamkhel is just the first drop of rain that is likely to clean the entire tribal area of violence and illiteracy if the institution is run with commitment.
The building is located near Akhurwal in the Frontier Region Kohat ahead of Darra Adamkhel town when one travels from Peshawar via the main Indus Highway. The façade of the old building doesn’t speak highly of the institution. It is, however, temporary where it will operate for a couple of years only, until work is completed on the brand new campus spread over 466 kanals of land acquired for the project in the same locality. One section of the existing building still hosts the degree college; another section is hosting security forces stationed here for a long time to restore peace in Darra Adamkhel, once the second stronghold of militants after Waziristan.
Currently, 72 students from different tribal areas are enrolled in the university in four different disciplines: Political Science, Sociology, Management Science and Mathematics. The building has no hostel facility but the authorities are looking to hire a rented building where students coming from South and North Waziristan, Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies as well as Frontier Regions of Kohat, Peshawar, Bannu, Tank, Lakki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan can be accommodated.
The university authorities believe the facility will help overcome illiteracy for the around 4.4 million population of the tribal areas which had no university of their own despite a number of higher education institutions set up in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the last few years. Many controversies surround these educational institutions in different districts of the KP — hiring of staff, land acquisition and standard of education are some. Many hope that this would not be the case with Fata University.
The institution will prove to be the beginning of a brighter, developed and educated Fata. The project was in the pipeline for the last many years but the work kicked off with the appointment of a senior academician Professor Dr Tahir Shah as the first ever vice chancellor of the Fata University in January 2016.
The HEC approved a fund of Rs 1.6 billion for Fata University in April last year out of which Rs 250 million were released in June. The civil secretariat in Fata also provided funds for setting up project management unit at the university to supervise the construction work at the new campus.
“We have 72 students in four different departments who will complete their second semester soon and we are getting overwhelming response ahead of the start of the second academic session,” Vice Chancellor Fata University Dr Professor Tahir Shah tells The News on Sunday. According to Professor Shah there is no female student in the first batch of students but they have got a female faculty member.
“We want to take the institution to the highest level and for that merit will be ensured in all affairs of the university. The design of the boundary wall and the gates has already been approved and work on the new campus will soon begin,” says the vice chancellor.
The university has visiting faculty besides regular members. It will soon launch new programmes in the disciplines of English, Education and Sciences. Authorities are also considering a school of education and human development, a community college responsible for providing skills and training, and technology programmes in different fields to the youth of Fata that do not qualify for admission to medical colleges, engineering universities and other professional degrees. Besides, a school of material science and engineering, school of sports and tourism, and a law school are also being considered at the campus.
“The three post-graduate colleges in Khar (Bajaur Agency), Miran Shah (North Waziristan Agency) and Parachinar (Kuram Agency) will be upgraded to sub-campuses of Fata University and all the degree colleges of the Fata region will be affiliated with Fata University in coming years,” says Professor Dr Tahir Shah.
The infrastructure of Fata University, the administrative and academic requirements in more than six faculties as per Fata University Regulations 2013, will be completed in different phases. In the first phase, some infrastructure and academic programmes will be completed within 5 years at an estimated cost of about Rs1.6 billion under the present PC-1 scheme. Work will continue in more phases to complete the academic programmes under the Fata University Regulations 2013 at a cost of another Rs 4.7 billion.
“A university in Fata was a longstanding demand of the tribesmen that has finally come true. But the matters in the institution should be dealt with strictly on merit as there are already various allegations on the recently set up universities in KP which came to limelight after the lynching of Mashal Khan at Abdul Wali Khan University campus in Mardan in April. The standard of the Fata University needs to at least match that of the University of Peshawar,” says Imran Afridi, an elder from Frontier Region Kohat. The university will not only benefit the people of Fata, Kohat and Peshawar, people from KP can also take admission in the institution like the tribesmen get in universities of the province.
A university for Fata was a longstanding demand of millions of tribesmen who were mostly ignored in educational projects till the former governor Iftikhar Hussain Shah initiated a number of regular and vocational education programmes, even in the remote tribal regions. Setting up of the Fata University was announced in a meeting of former premier Yousuf Raza Gillani with lawmakers from Fata in January 2009. Like the Fata Reforms, the plan was delayed due to many reasons until former president Asif Ali Zardari approved the Fata University Regulations in May 2013. The first academic session was formally inaugurated by Governor KP Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and federal minister Abdul Qadir Baloch in December last year.
Under the approved PC-1, academic, administrative, residential and common facilities will be established in a covered area of 240,225 square feet within five years. Besides 20 foreign Ph.D scholarships will be given to newly-appointed faculty so that they complete their higher studies from technologically advanced countries.
“More students from all the other agencies and cities will start getting admissions here once the hostel and transport facilities are in place. Also, there is a message to every parent that Darra Adamkhel is very much safe and there will be no harm to their children,” says a Peshawar University student from Orakzai Agency, Tariq Ahmad.