The Honorable Malik Muhammad Rafique Rajwana, Governor of Punjab and Patron of the University of Management and Technology
The Honorable Professor Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, National Reforms and Development
The Honorable Muhammad Mian Soomro, Ex-Chairman of the Senate and member of the University of Management and Technology Board
The Honorable Professor Dr. Hasan Sohaib Murad, Rector of the University of Management and Technology
Honorable Members of the Board of Governors and ILM Trust
Graduates and their parents
It is an honor to join you today to celebrate the achievements of this bright group of students. Each student here today is fulfilling a dream shared by many young people in Pakistan and across the world—the dream of attaining a higher education. Congratulations to you and to your parents, who I know played an important role in helping you reach this goal.
I know that today’s achievements represent the culmination of many years of hard work starting from your first day of primary school. The United States government supports all levels of education in Pakistan because we recognize that all children need a solid start from grade one, and that they hope to continue their education at strong institutions of higher education.
In fact, during Prime Minister Sharif’s recent trip to Washington, he and President Obama emphasized the value of investing in higher and basic education. Building on our important cooperation in basic education to date, our two leaders welcomed the launch of the Let Girls Learn Initiative in Pakistan, a global effort led by the United States, which has committed $70 million in U.S. government funding to provide 200,000 Pakistani girls access to education and the tools they need to succeed in life.
With our partners at the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan, we facilitate the highest-funded Fulbright scholarship program in the world—sending hundreds of Pakistanis to the United States every year in pursuit of masters and doctoral degrees. Many of these graduates return to Pakistan to teach at institutions of higher learning, like UMT, where I know six members of faculty are Fulbright alumni.
We are also working to strengthen institutions of higher education in Pakistan. Through dozens of U.S. Government-funded University Partnerships and academic linkages between U.S. and Pakistani institutions, we are helping universities across Pakistan to improve curricula and develop their faculties. Nine of these projects, totaling nearly US $9 million, are located right here in Punjab—including one between the University of Management and Technology and George Mason University that focuses on faculty development. Building on the skills of educators will enhance the already excellent quality of education the students receive here at UMT.
My colleagues at the United States Agency for International Development have also made significant contributions towards enhancing institutions of higher education in Punjab. In October, USAID inaugurated a new Faculty of Education building at the University of Education in Lahore, just one of seventeen universities in Pakistan to receive USAID-funded Faculty of Education buildings. This modern facility, built at a cost of $1.5 million dollars, provides an ideal learning lab for current and future generations of Pakistani scholars and teachers. Through a USAID-funded hostel for women at Foreman Christian College, more young women from outside of Lahore are now able to pursue their dreams of achieving a higher education. Through our Merit and Need Based Scholarship program, we have awarded scholarships to Pakistani universities to over 1,800 students in Punjab alone. The United States has trained 7,000 teachers, and re-trained almost 57,000 more.
These successes would not have been possible without the continued support of the Government of Punjab, which has done commendable work in the field of education. Under the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund established in 2009, the government has awarded 41,000 merit-based scholarships worth over Rs. 2 billion. Looking towards the future, the innovations developed at the Information Technology University, the Arfa Software Technology Park, and the Plan 9 incubation center speak volumes of the enabling environment that the Government of Punjab has created for IT innovators over the past several years. Graduates of innovative degrees offered by UMT’s School of Systems and Technology will certainly play a role in moving Pakistan’s economy forward.
These efforts square directly with Pakistan’s “Vision 2025”—the Federal government’s framework for growth and development for the next decade. Technology will accelerate development across all of Vision 2025’s Pillars, especially those dedicated to developing a competitive knowledge economy and modernizing governance and the public sector. The United States pledges its assistance in this endeavor and wishes Pakistan every success under the capable leadership of Minister Iqbal.
The United States supports all of these programs because we know that access to quality education has long-term, transformational benefits for people’s future, for their families and communities, and for Pakistan’s economic prosperity overall. I want to thank everyone here today for your dedication to quality education in Pakistan. I once again congratulate all of the students for marking today’s achievement. All the best to you as you pursue your future endeavors.
Thank you for your attention.