Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood on Thursday launched a rare arts and culture scholarship program in Islamabad, aimed at offering assistance to students in traditionally neglected areas of the education system.

The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training has launched the scholarship for promoting arts and culture in Pakistan through the National Endowment Scholarship for Talent (NEST), and will seek to promote fields such as film, theatre, visual arts, ceramic and textile design.

The arts and culture scholarship is in line with the PTI government’s policy for providing vertical mobility to the most vulnerable segments of society and to eradicating poverty.

At the launch, Shafqat said the government had been planning for some months to take the stream of scholarships towards arts and culture, besides the traditional fields of sciences. “Today calls for happiness as we have finally been able to achieve that,” the minister said.

He said the state’s responsibility was to assist talented individuals in the society who could not afford education, and ensure that such individuals do not get left behind only due to a lack of resources.

“This scholarship is an effort in this very regard and we want to offer the same opportunity in the arts and culture,” Shafqat said.

He added that although it was a humble effort with only 400 scholarships being offered, it was important as it depicted the government’s priorities and also because it was probably the first such scholarship on the scale that it was being offered.

The minister said it was a new program and there was certainly a large room for improvement, which the government would continue doing as the program evolved.

Sharing further insights, he said the government had initially planned to offer the scholarships directly, but it then decided to forge collaborations with institutions to increase the ownership of the project.

“I am happy to report that every institution we approached was eager to play their part. For example, if a an institution’s fee was Rs 100,000, the institution agreed to forego half of the charges, and that is how the program was made a success,” The minister said.

He said the government would also make efforts to offer living and lodging assistance to students under the scholarship in the future, so that students focus only on studies without worrying over living and food expenditure.

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