PESHAWAR: Only 7.8 percent of the youth aged between 17 to 23 years has access to higher education in Pakistan,while according to the national income statistics, only one in five families throughout Pakistan can afford the expense of sending even one family member to a local public university.
To help the deserving but financially disadvantaged students pursue university education, USAID and HEC launched the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Programme in 2004. The scholarships are awarded in the fields of agriculture and business administration.
"I can never forget the day when I was selected to receive USAID scholarship," says Ayesha Butt, a young talented woman, recalling her happiness several years ago.
She had just completed 12 years of schooling when her parents died. She was left alone to take care of her younger sisters and saw no way to continue education while providing for siblings. "My ambitions to get higher education looked like a fading dream," says Ayesha.
She is one of the 1,800 young and talented but financially needy Pakistanis that receive scholarships for higher education from the USAID Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Programme implemented by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan.
Currently, in addition to her tuition fee, Ayesha's scholarship included an allowance for accommodation and living expenses.
This meant that pursuing her dream of a university degree was real once again for the young woman. She received admission at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, a premier institute established in 1961 with support from USAID and the Washington State University.
Today, Ayesha holds a Master's Degree with honors in agricultural biotechnology and is working on a doctorate degree.
"As a child, I remember reading a statement that coupled with talent, great desire creates its own opportunity," smiles Ayesha. - APP