On Crowdfunding the Education
CrowdFunding the Education

On Crowdfunding the Education

The recent debate on Pakistan’s Twitter has sparked up a debate about receiving crowdfunding for education. The debate started after a Twitter handle, asked for people’s donations so that that person could afford to study in LUMS. Though it was not the first time someone asked for crowdfunding for education on Twitter this time, people started criticizing this practice mostly citing the current economic situation of the country where more than 4 million people have fallen below the poverty line and half the population is struggling to make the ends meet, and meanwhile, this appeal to continue studies in one of the most elitist institutes of Pakistan was insensitive to say the very least.

But the discourse on Twitter did not remain confined to this very specific appeal but just in a matter of time, it got spread to the wider issue of whether it is ethical or not to receive crowdfunding to get an education in the prestigious educational institutions of the country. Many people have recounted their experience of studying in public universities and working hard instead of “asking money from strangers on Twitter”. Some even argued that people should learn to stay within their means instead of choosing elite institutions, they must opt for public universities. A twitter user Farrukh Abbasi was the first one to criticize this appeal and he wrote “An exceptionally brilliant student gets a B in O levels computer science and gets admission in LUMS for computer science and his sister says “My father didn’t do corruption as a civil servant so Pakistani Twitter must pay me 5 lacs a semester” This country is amazing”.

To which the Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Shaza Fatima responded “This is an unfair tweet mocking someone in need. Even if these young kids say things we don’t agree with in their time of desperation, we should look past that n try to help. I think it is abs inspirational the way these siblings are working their way up. More power to them.” The famous model and actress Ushna Shah also called out the people trolling the person asking the money and wrote “Surprisingly, heartless trolling still doesn’t cease to shock me. LUMS isn’t an easy institution to get into, having to drop out because of finances would be heartbreaking for any hard-working student & I am sure it isn’t easy to ask for help on a public forum. Don’t donate if you don’t want to, but at least be kind!”

But the arguments against this practice of receiving donations were also quite convincing, another famous Twitter user recounted her story of not being able to afford the fee of LUMS and hence had to choose another university, she wrote “Had the opportunity to go to LUMS. Didn’t even attempt to move through the process because I knew I couldn’t afford it. Didnt have money to pay for fees for university (I eventually ended up at Bahria University PNS Shifa had a Psychology Program, at the Institute of Professional Psychology). Deferred payment & paid it after I got the job. Still, remember the day they told me I couldn’t attend my convocation until I paid my fees. I ran from pillar to post trying to get my salary a bit early (I got a job immediately after I got my results) so I could pay 26000 rupees (which was my semester fees) and attend my graduation ceremony. Would I have wanted someone to pay all that money? No. Would I have asked anyone to pay it for me? Also probably no. But if someone wants others to pay for it and others want to pay for it, I guess it’s their choice. Each to his own. Sharing this story & perspective because you can do what you want based on your own experience and choices. The world judges. What eventually matters is the peace you make with yourself. This pic is from 2007 from the graduation ceremony. I completed my Master’s in Clinical Psychology and was an assistant lecturer at Bahria and Iqra University.”

All these arguments aside, it is a normal practice for students to use “gofundme” to afford education, especially in Western countries, but most of these students asking for donations are from the lower middle or working class. Even in Pakistan, I have seen professors of different universities taking on social media to ask for funds for their students belonging to low-income families who would otherwise not be able to continue their studies in any public or private institution.

Personally, I don’t see the harm in the practice of crowdfunding as long as it is being done to uplift the communities who otherwise do not have the means to excel in society. But in this specific case, the person was coming from a place of entitlement, like the country owed her money so she should continue studying at LUMS. The class dimension of this whole fiasco cannot be ignored as if it was not someone from working-class asking for funds, and when some Twitter users dig out her old tweets, all were in for a surprise, that the same person once asked for money so that her dog could play PIANO.

As ridiculous as that sounds, it showed that this person was just scamming people for the money, but nonetheless, it did spark the debate on crowdfunding for education.

Related: Role of Libraries and information centers in promoting education in Pakistan

The writer, Muhammad Saad, is an M.Phil scholar of Political Science at GCU Lahore.

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