More than 23,000 students of four-year bachelor programmes and professional institutions will start receiving free-of-cost laptop computers from this week under a special initiative of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, according to officials.
The provincial higher education department, said an official, had requested Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti to preside over the laptop computer scheme’s launching ceremony on February 10, 2013.
“The first batch of a group of students would receive their computers this week at a ceremony scheduled to take place at University of Peshawar,” said an official of the higher education department’s project management unit (PMU) that is responsible to execute the scheme.
A total of 23,147 students would be given free laptop computers under the government’s Naway Sahar (New Dawn) scheme, said a PMU official.
The government had announced the scheme at the time of presenting its budget for the on-going financial year back in last June. A sum of Rs1 billion had been allocated for the scheme which, according to officials, has been released from the current budget for procuring the machines for their onward distribution among the students.
The money had been put in a special bank account of the higher education department. The government, said an official, had released the entire amount to make it sure that the scheme was executed with ease and the contractor should also feel confident about its money not being blocked in case the caretaker government came in prior to the next general elections.
The provincial government wants to distribute the computers before it leaves. It wanted to launch the scheme by the end of December last. However, it took it a bit longer to finally be able to hand in the computers to the students.
“The supplier has opened the letter of credit and now all the computers will be distributed,” said the official.
Nonetheless, he was not sure whether the distribution of computers would be completed before the end of the five-year constitutional term of the provincial assembly on March 16, 2013. As per the government’s decision, officials said, the computers would be distributed among the students of the public sector institutions in accordance with the official criteria determined by a high level committee.
Similarly, they added, care had been exercised to select the private contractor in a transparent manner.
“The procedural audit was carried out on the initiative of the authorities concerned to make sure that official rules and procedures have been strictly followed in awarding the procurement contract,” said an official.
According to him, technical bids of three firms qualified to the process after which ‘Dell’ was finally chosen to supply the computers. Officials said that students enrolled in the four-year bachelor studies would be eligible to get computers if they scored 70 per cent in their last semester. Those, who are enrolled in programmes that involve annual examination system, will be eligible if they have scored 60 per cent or more in their last academic year.
Besides, students of medical colleges and engineering universities would also be eligible for the computers. In addition to that, the government school students, who secured top 10 positions in the intermediate examinations of the boards of intermediate and second education across the province, would also stand qualified to get the computers.
Two per cent of all the computers to be distributed under the scheme would be given to ‘disabled students’ of BS programmes, medical colleges and engineering universities. However, students enrolled at the master programmes of the public sector universities would not be entitled to get the computers in accordance with the criteria set by the government.
According to officials, once the scheme is launched this week, all universities would start receiving laptops for distribution among the selected students of their affiliated colleges and institutions of professional studies. Every university, said an official, had nominated a focal person, who would receive the laptops directly from the supplier. Focal persons would be required to get the computers checked before handing them over to the selected students.
“The checking would be mandatory to ensure that the supplier provided the machines as per the specifications mentioned in the official contract and to make sure that they are functional,” said the PMU official.
“If a student has not received a computer and his name is in the notified list, this would serve as an opportunity for him to bring the anomaly into the notice of the higher authorities,” said the official.