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Education for poverty reduction and Energy conservation highlighted in the 2nd Annual PCTN Conference

The second conference of Pakistan Chapter of The Talloires Network (PCTN) was held at National University of Sciences and Technology on Wednesday March 18, 2015.   It was attended by VCs/ Rectors and representatives of 22 member universities.  The theme for the conference was ‘Sustainable Development Solutions and Action Plans for Universities and their Youth.’ Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Mr Ahsan Iqbal was chief guest for the inaugural session. Heads of different member universities across Pakistan, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, academics and a large number of students attended the conference. Dr Irtiza Ali Shah, Coordinator PCTN, moderated the conference sessions.     

Speaking at the occasion, the federal minister said a plethora of challenges are facing Pakistan. However, he maintained, the youth of the present age are more aware of as well as sensitized to what is happening around them. The universities have, therefore, the responsibility to harness the youth potential in a way that they transcend themselves as human beings and give back to the society the best they can. He said that against the backdrop of information technology revolution the information tends to be only a click away. Therefore, the chief guest added, the need of the time is to strengthen education sector of the country as the “power of classrooms and laboratories” is the only defining feature in the competition-driven world of today. He said that the incumbent government is fully cognizant of the importance of education and aims to establish universities in every nook and corner of Pakistan so that no one remains deprived of the blessings of knowledge for want of access to higher academic institutions. The minister also made mention of Vision 2025, which he said was being seriously pursued by the government ever since its launch.

A video message by Mr Rob Hollister who is Executive Director of The Talloires Network (TN) was also played at the conference.  Mr Hollister appreciated that after USA, Pakistan has the highest number of members at TN.  He appreciated the participation of Pakistani delegates at the TNLC 2014 and stressed upon the themes of youth employment as a focus area of TN agenda.

Earlier, Rector NUST Engr Muhammad Asghar welcomed the guests to the conference and hoped that it would go a long way in the development of sustainable solutions. He also said that the objectives of PCTN were very much aligned to that of Vision 2025.

A number of other prominent speakers addressed the daylong conference divided into two sessions: the first being on Education and Skill Development for Poverty Reduction in Pakistan, while the latter focused on Energy Conservation and Finding Alternate Sources for Pakistan. The speakers shed light on these issues as well as proposed how universities and their youth could contribute to solving these problems.  Speaking at the first session Dr Ijaz Shafi Gilani (CEO Gallup, Pakistan) discussed education and skills as a tool in the ‘Toolbox of Poverty Reduction’.  He discussed the effectiveness of this tool with other tools.  Ms Ayesha Hamid (Chairperson American School of International Academics & Member Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs) shed light on the importance of entrepreneurship.  She said that economic depression is world over and youth need to be resourceful rather than being a victim of the bad job market.  Dr Adnan Khan (Director at Research and Development Solutions) discussed how there is a gap between the needs of the society/ economy and the graduates we are producing.  He stressed on the importance of vocational education as well as the need for liaison between universities and industry.

At the second session Dr Bial Khan (Principal CES, NUST) stressed on all the steps that can be taken by people individually as well as universities to save energy.  Dr Amer Durrani (CEO at EA Consulting Pvt Ltd) discussed the state of energy crises in Pakistan that 1/3rd of the country has no access to electricity and discussed various renewable energy options and their limitations.  Dr Irfan Mirza (CEO Renewable Resources and former Dir Tech at Alternate Energy Board)

 Mr Nisar Memon was the guest of honor at the closing session.  He stressed upon the importance of sustainable development goals that were chalked out by the UN and the need to achieve the targets set for Pakistan.  At the occasion, Akhtar Hameed Khan Awards for best community service projects were also bestowed on universities. Fifteen universities sent in nominations of their community service programs for the award.   Rector Nust and Mr Nisar Memon distributed the prizes amongst the winners.  The 1st prize of Rs 100,000 was given to Sukkur IBA for their ‘Talent Hunt Program’; the second prize of Rs 50,000 was given to NUST for their ‘Education for empowerment program’; the third prize winner for Rs 30,000 was Greenwich University for their ‘Polio eradication program’ and the 4th prize of Rs 20,000 was given to University of Agriculture Faisalabad for their multidimensional community-engagement programs. 

12 universities also set up stalls of their community service activities.  PCTN hopes that such a gathering would help to promote the culture of civic engagement and community service amongst institutions of higher learning in Pakistan.