Posted by: Titus Presler | April 1, 2013

Edwardes receives $3.1 million grant from Khyber Pakhtunkwa Government

This is no longer news, because the grant was announced on Nov. 16 and the funds were received on Jan. 1, but through an oversight the news never appeared on this blog.  $3.1 million is a major sum for any college or university anywhere in the world.  For Edwardes it is momentous, especially coming from a provincial government in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Below is the news release from the College that formed the basis for news notes in other venues that some readers may have seen – the Feb. 5 story on the Anglican Communion News Service, the echoing Feb. 6 article on Episcopal News Service, the Feb. 22 story in The Church Times of the Church of England, and the March 20 news note in Christian Century:

Edwardes College Peshawar receives $3.1 million grant from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Edwardes College, an Anglican-founded undergraduate and graduate institution in Peshawar, the major city in the troubled border region of northwestern Pakistan, has received a $3.1 million development grant from the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Principal the Rev. Canon Dr. Titus Presler announced.

“This grant of 300 million Pakistani rupees will assist Edwardes with the academic programmes and physical facilities vital to the degree-awarding status that will enhance our educational contribution to the province and the nation,” Presler said.  “Amid the extremist violence of the region, it is heartening that this province in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has expressed such confidence in the higher education offered by a church institution.  Lots of bad news comes from this area, but there is ground for hope.”

The College Management Team had been consulting with provincial officials for about nine months, the Principal said in expressing gratitude to Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the Higher Education Secretariat, and the Higher Education Regulatory Authority of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  The grant, announced on Nov. 16 and received in January, will support faculty higher studies, enhance library resources, improve scientific laboratories, and fund premises for expanded academic programmes.

“Students and the province as a whole will benefit from this grant as it leads to quality enhancement,” said Vice Principal Prof. Kalim Ullah, who has served Edwardes for 36 years.  “Edwardes is a cradle of academic learning and a community of interfaith understanding.  We try to develop the whole person and reach out to the wider community in these difficult times in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

“Edwardes College is one of our major institutions, and we are delighted that the province is offering this boost at a turning-point in the College’s history,” said Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, Bishop of the Diocese of Peshawar, the College’s sponsoring body.

The oldest institution of higher education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Edwardes was founded in 1900 by the Church Missionary Society.  Since 1956 it has operated under the auspices of the local church, which in 1970 joined with Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians to form the Church of Pakistan, a full member of the Anglican Communion.

“Edwardes is a church institution but not a Christian enclave,” said Presler, noting that 92% of the 2,950 students are Muslim, 7% are Christian, and 1% are Hindus and Sikhs, with similar percentages among the 105 faculty members.  Many students come from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border, districts disrupted by insurgency and military operations.  Women, socially disadvantaged like religious minorities, make up 8% of the students and 17% of the faculty, proportions the College is trying to increase.

“Edwardes reflects the wider society, every aspect of our work is inter-religious, and we have a particular vocation to develop interfaith community in a polarized environment,” Presler said.  The College recently hosted a gathering of Faith Friends, the Peshawar group that brings together Sunni and Shia, various Christian denominations, Sikhs and Hindus.

A missiologist and priest of the Episcopal Church USA, Presler served as a missionary in Zimbabwe, a pastor of several Episcopal parishes, academic dean at General Seminary, and president of the Seminary of the Southwest before going to Edwardes.  He holds a BA with honors from Harvard, the MDiv from General, and the ThD from Boston University.

A College initiative this year that has attracted provincial attention is the Integrity Project, which seeks to build personal character and social responsibility in students through weekly discussion groups that involve every student and most faculty members throughout the year.  The topics, chosen to address particular challenges in contemporary Pakistan, include: Purposes of Education, Discernment of Talents, Ethical Understanding, Moral Behavior, Gender Relations, Diversity Tolerance, Social Responsibility, and Servant Leadership.  The case-study-based program has provided an open and safe environment in which probing and stimulating conversations have flourished.

Another new initiative is the English Immersion Programme, which exposed every entering student to 12 days of intensive spoken English before the term opened in September and that produced marked improvement.  Edwardes offers 10 undergraduate and graduate programs.  Faculty development initiatives include collaborative leadership, active committees, skill seminars, and syllabus guidance.

Edwardes College is self-supporting in its operations, but like any institution of higher education it needs extra-budgetary support for special initiatives, Presler said as he highlighted financial aid for poor students as a perennial need: “Think of Rimsha Masih, the Christian girl in Islamabad falsely accused of blasphemy, and now freed.  Think of Malala Yousafzai, the Muslim girl campaigning for girl’s education who was shot by the Taliban in Swat.”  Scholarships for the College’s 230 women students and 200 Christian students assist two historically disadvantaged communities in Pakistan.

“The mission of Edwardes College,” states the institution’s website at www.edwardes.edu.pk, “is to educate and develop professionals who will be servant leaders in meeting the challenges and opportunities of Pakistan today.”

In the perspective of the College’s overall finances, the grant of Rs. 300 million is 150% the current academic year’s budget of just over Rs. 200 million.

Progress is being made in the four focal areas that the grant is intended to fund.  In faculty qualifications, a number of faculty have already received reimbursements for their advanced studies, and several PhD faculty have been hired.  Book lists for library acquisitions have been compiled, and the first stage of new laboratory equipment has been requisitioned.

On Feb. 2 a strategic planning gathering with about 40 representatives of major stakeholders – Management Team, Faculty, Diocese, Provincial Government, Students, Alumni – prioritized projects for expanded premises and reached a consensus that a new academic block on the existing campus for the new 4-year Bachelor of Studies degree is the first on the list.  On that basis the Management Team has been engaged in hiring a planning consultant and has met with an engineering firm to explore various dimensions of the project.

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