The home and tribal affairs department through a letter issued on August 22 had informed the relevant departments that there was no restriction on the grant of admission to Afghan students in the government or private educational institutions throughout the province.
It said the federal Ministry of State and Frontier Regions had also directed that registered refugee students might continue their academic activities in Pakistan and that educational institutions both public and private could entertain their admission applications if they fulfilled the criteria.
“There is no restriction on admission of registered Afghan refugees students in any education institution throughout Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said the letter addressed to various education departments.
However, sources told Dawn that the government and private schools and colleges had received verbal instructions from the security apparatus about denial of admission to refugee students.
Schools, colleges denying admission to refugees on verbal instructions
They said the administrations of several colleges in the provincial capital had confirmed that they had been stopped from providing admission to refugees’ students.
Thousands of refugee students are studying in the government and private educational institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Afghans have a vast network of schools and colleges in Peshawar where refugee children are imparted education.
The government has reserved seats for refugee students in the country’s prestigious professional institutions in Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad.
However, such seats in professional colleges of Peshawar have been abolished.
Besides refugees, Pakistani government also gives 2,000 scholarships to Afghan students and provides them with admission to professional colleges and universities across the country. The Higher Education Commission in collaboration with Pakistani mission in Kabul processes admission of qualified Afghan students.
A senior government functionary also said schools and colleges had been restricted from admission to refugee students.
“Large numbers of refugees are going back to Afghanistan and therefore, schools and colleges had been asked not to admit refugee students,” said the official. However, he said these instructions did not apply on refugees’ students who were studying in professional institutions.
“But they (refugees’ students in professional institutions) will have to apply for student visas after December 31, 2016 otherwise their admission will be cancelled,” he said. Presently federal government has a policy that all registered refugees would have to go back to their country by the end of December.
Officials said around 60 schools had been closed in refugee camps in the province since their Afghan students had departed to their country.
They said around 20,000 students had left for own country since their families had returned to Afghanistan.
Around 70,000 refugees have returned under the UN voluntary repatriation programme this year.
The repatriation of refugees is gaining momentum with officials expecting the number of returning Afghans to touch the 200,000 mark by the end of the year.
Also, the Afghans are winding up businesses in Peshawar and other parts of the province. -DN
THE PASHTUN TIMES