Plymouth State University is reaching out to its Pakistani family members following the devastating earthquake that occurred in Pakistan on October 8, killing an estimated 79,000 people according to the latest reports. PSU is starting a relief fund that will help support the immediate humanitarian needs, and is developing a scholarship for Pakistani graduate students to support the long-term rebuilding of educational systems in the affected areas.
Over the last two summers, PSU and the local community have hosted 45 Pakistani educators for a U.S. Department of State grant-funded summer institute focused on best practices in education and cross-cultural exchange. As of today, PSU has been able to account for the well-being of 26 of its Pakistani colleagues. “These wonderful colleagues have become our friends and partners in school improvement,” says Dr. Mary McNeil, director of PSU’s Office of International Institutes and Programs. “News of the devastation and loss of life caused by the earthquake has moved us to respond in support as friends and partners in education.”
Dr. McNeil has also been in contact with Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, Pakistan’s Centre for Education and Consciousness Public Trust, and learned 14 – 20% of the school age population (ages five to 18) in the affected areas has been lost as a result of the earthquake. Add to that the loss of teachers and physical infrastructure and the long-term impact of the disaster on education is significant.
When the recovery operations shift to rebuilding, PSU plans to assist by providing a scholarship for Pakistani graduate students. Just as the mission of the Pakistani Teachers’ Institute is to train educational leaders to develop a theory-to-practice model to share with their colleagues back in Pakistani, the scholarship will be targeted at Pakistani educators in leadership positions who can influence and model best practices for others.
Additionally, plans for the 2006 Summer Institute are being discussed. According to Dr. McNeil, she and others are in contact with both the U.S. State Department and Pakistani officials to determine whether next year’s institute should be postponed, or if there are alternatives that should be considered, such as a group of PSU educators traveling to Pakistan.
Donations for the scholarship should be made out to Plymouth State Pakistani scholarship and mailed to Advancement MSC 50, Plymouth State University, 17 High Street, Plymouth, N.H. 03266. To contribute to the relief fund please call Dr. McNeil’s office at (603) 535-2982.