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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said the top-most priority of his party's government is to uplift the poorest of the poor of the society, for which "we want to uplift those who have the drive to excel and progress in life".

Speaking at the launch ceremony of Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Programme here, he said: "our biggest asset is the country's youth, and this is the reason, we're giving scholarships to the deserving students under the Ehsaas programme".

The prime minister also handed scholarship letters to a select few students during the ceremony, while distributing scholarships to the first batch of deserving students under the Ehsaas programme.

The scholarship programme will cover tuition and other fees, plus a stipend to cover essential expenses. The continuation of a scholarship in future years will depend upon the maintenance of academic performance by the student. The federal government has allocated Rs 24 billion for the programme.

"I follow state of Madinah as my role model and by following this model, our government will look after the underprivileged segment of society on a priority basis," PM Imran said, while addressing the ceremony.

He said that under this programme, 50,000 students will be given scholarships from across the country, and the budget for the scheme will be increased gradually. The scholarships will provide a total of over 200,000 scholarships to students in the country for over four years.

The prime minister lamented that due to the existence of multiple educational standards in the country, the common man is unable to compete with the elite of the country. "[The] Elite has taken over all the resources of the country," he said. It may be noted that 50 per cent of scholarships are reserved for girl students, while two per cent are for students with special needs.

The programme will be overseen by the Ehsaas Scholarships Steering Committee and co-chaired by the HEC chairman and the BISP chairperson.

He said that a humane society is one, which looked after the interests of the underprivileged. "How can you identify a civilised society? The identity of a civilised society is not determined by how the rich live, it is determined by how the poor live. This is what draws a distinction between a humane society and one that is animalistic."

Talking about his experience with Namal Institute, the prime minister said: "My only reason for establishing that university was because there was unemployment in the area. I thought that by setting up a technical institute, the people would be able to learn skills from which they could earn an income."

He said that around 75 per cent of the students who come to Namal were from Urdu-medium schools. PM Khan said that they first had to be taught English language. Despite this, 50 to 55 per cent of the varsity's graduates take first divisions from the University of Bradford, which Namal is affiliated with, he added.

"This proves that those children who want to excel and progress in life, the students like me who went to good schools cannot compete with such students...therefore, the students that will benefit from the programme will value it. I am certain that these students will also contribute towards the country's progress," he added.

PM Khan reiterated that the country is blessed with a multitude of things, but the biggest asset is the country's youth. "However, we will only be able to reap the benefits of the youth by educating them, and uplifting them," he said.

Commenting on the initiatives taken by the PTI government, the prime minister said that the health cards initiative and the shelter homes set up by the government are some of the measures that had been taken to empower the people.

"We are also working towards empowering women in villages. These programmes have been realised through a lot of hard work, and will operate solely on merit, keeping political affiliations aside," he said.

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad earlier in the day, Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Dr Sania Nishtar said the initiative is the country's biggest-ever need-based scholarship programme for undergraduates.

She said that 50,000 scholarships will be given each year to the students of 119 public sector universities across the country and Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. A total of 200,000 students will benefit from this programme, Dr Nishtar added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020