Pakistan is amongst the countries in the world having a large number of people living below the poverty line. The facilities like clean drinking water, sanitation, education and proper health facilities are also not available to a large number of people. Accordingly, with lowest literacy rates, the proportion of population acquiring higher education or even having access to higher education is much, much lower.
Poverty is one reason for this scenario. Utilizing time in seeking education is seen as an opportunity cost by many. According to them, the time utilized in studying could be utilized in earning to feed the family. This argument is often raised when considering higher education.
According to UNDP Sustainable Development Goal number 04, which is to make quality education accessible to all, disparities in education is mostly along the lines of gender, urban-rural location and other obvious dimensions. Thus, in order to have a sustainable future, Pakistan has to eradicate such disparities and establish a need blind admission system. This way Pakistan can be brought out of this vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy leading to economic disparity.
Considering the aforementioned condition of higher education sector of Pakistan and although the opportunities are scarce, yet there are some very bright avenues and beacons of hope and light in the country in this particular sector and one such organization which has truly emerged as a ray of hope (working in this particular sector) and providing assistance to more than 140 universities and professional bodies across Pakistan is “Ihsan Trust”.
Ihsan Trust has introduced a sustainable model of enabling higher education and eradicating economic disparity in Pakistan.
Ihsan Trust (IT) is a nonprofit organization,and the major focus of Ihsan Trust is in the domain of providing interest-free loans to the students seeking Higher Education across Pakistan. Through this scheme, Ihsan Trust bears the educational expenses of the students on purely “Need cum Merit” basis in order to enable them to complete their Higher Education in the form of interest-free loan.
Ihsan Trust decided to provide interest-free loan rather than scholarships because interest-free loans are more sustainable than scholarships. To become a bridge for students for completing their higher education, all that needs to be done is to assist them while they are studying. After the completion of education, the individual is stable enough to return the amount invested on him/her leading Ihsan Trust to help more students in future. It’s like roll over funds with students being provided the Interest Free Loan facility (funds are always directly transferred to the university) and students starts making token monthly repayments (which are always mutually agreed between the student and Ihsan Trust) which are then channelized to provide assistance to more and more needy students, thus generating a roll over effect which is unlike scholarships, where every year you have to start generating funds from a point zero and thus is not sustainable for the organization. This interest-free loan facility gives a sense of responsibility in students and a drive to achieve more.
So far, Ihsan Trust has provided financial assistance to more than 4,000 students of 140+ universities and professional bodies of Pakistan including students of IBA, LUMS, GIKI, NUST, DOW, NED, COMSATS, FAST NU, Riphah, ACCA etc. Many of those, who have completed their studies, are now securing good positions in large multinationals and local companies such as Coca Cola company, Unilever, Shell, PARCO etc. The students assisted were from humble backgrounds and today they are leading professionals in their respective fields. Since, the assistance is through interest-free loan, the roll-over funds has enabled Ihsan Trust to help students through their own repayments. About 40% of the funding of students was done through repayments in the year 2018 alone. This percentage is expected to increase in further years which implies that more students will be assisted through this model in future.
Ihsan Trust’s model has been acknowledged internationally as well as Ihsan Trust also won the “Islamic Economy Award” in the category of Waqf & Endowment in 2017. It is an honor that an organization from Pakistan was selected and awarded at the Global level. Of all the nine (09) categories of awards, Ihsan Trust was the only Organization from Pakistan, which won the award in any category in that year. Mr. Ahmed Ali Siddiqui — Treasurer Ihsan Trust received the award form Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council. The annual award recognizes innovative world-class business initiatives and ideas that have contributed to the social and economic welfare of the Muslim population.
This award is a symbol of appreciation, honour, a testimonial of recognition of Ihsan Trust’s services, increasing our credibility, reputation and top of it acknowledgement of our selfless services and efforts to help and assist the poor and needy and reinvigorate the concept of “Waqf” in Islamic world.
IT has assisted the students with utmost equity and fairness basis. There is no discrimination whatsoever on the basis of gender or religion or cast, creed etc. Equal emphasis has been provided to the women seeking higher education in Pakistan and thus Ihsan Trust has played a significant role in empowering women of Pakistan. Although, the number of women pursuing higher education is lower than that of men in Pakistan. Perhaps again, poverty is one reason for this turnout. A family who can afford the higher education of only one child in the family, often choose the male child, irrespective of merit.
However, IT believes that higher education is the right of every eligible student. Ihsan Trust has facilitated many female students of different universities in Pakistan. About 50 per cent of IT alumni base are women, some of whom are now working in large multinationals and local companies in Pakistan and are able to change the financial condition of their families.
So far, Ihsan Trust has already provided more than Rs 800 million to students seeking higher education in Pakistan. This includes a little more than Rs 100 million alone for The Ihsan Trust – IBA National Talent Hunt Program where Ihsan Trust provided assistance for the Program Management cost as well as the Orientation Program cost and assistance for the students who qualify the IBA (The premier Business School of the country) entrance test and get admission in IBA through Ihsan Trust’s support.
What have been achieved is just the tip of the ice-berg. Every year hundreds of students forward their case to Ihsan Trust, when only few hundreds get entertained. Like every business model, Ihsan Trust, in order to sustain, requires an external push every now and then to increase the number of students facilitated by them.
But that is not an obstacle in their way, it is just an opportunity for others to be a part of this great initiative and noble cause. Be it corporations or individual donors, this initiative is a sustainable investment in higher education of Pakistan that will not only brighten the future of the country, but is being instrumental in the Human Capital Development of the country with a vision to make Pakistan a better place to live.
[box type=”note” align=”” class=”” width=””]The author is General Manager, Ihsan Trust[/box]