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Pakistan NW frontier's only Christian college receives £2m government grant

Posted on: February 5, 2013 4:41 PM
Biology Class at Edwardes
Photo Credit: CUAC
Related Categories: cuac, education, Pakistan

Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC) reports that one of its member institutions, Edwardes College in Peshawar, Pakistan, has received a development grant in the amount of PKR 300 million (US$ 3.1 million) from the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. CUAC’s General Secretary, the Revd Canon James G Callaway noted, ‘This significant grant to Edwardes, the only Anglican college in Pakistan, recognizes the vital role our colleges are playing in non-Christian societies: modeling an embracing of diversity for the common good, which is part of the DNA of their Anglican identity.’

Edwardes College, an Anglican-founded undergraduate and graduate institution, is located in the troubled border region of northwestern Pakistan. The school’s Principal, the Revd Canon Dr Titus Presler, explained the potential impact of the award: ‘This grant of 300 million Pakistani rupees will assist Edwardes with the academic programs and physical facilities vital to the degree-awarding status that will enhance our educational contribution to the province and the nation.’ He continued, ‘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.’

In remarks expressing gratitude to Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the Higher Education Secretariat, and the Higher Education Regulatory Authority of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Presler recognized that the provincial officials had consulted with the College’s Management Team for about nine months in preparing the grant, which was announced on November 16, 2012 and received in January, 2013. This funding will support faculty higher studies, enhance library resources, improve scientific laboratories, and fund premises for expanded academic programs. 

‘Students and the province as a whole will benefit from this grant as it leads to quality enhancement,’ said Vice Principal Professor 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.’

The Bishop of the Diocese of Peshawar, the Rt Revd Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, was gratified by the development. ‘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’, he declared. The Diocese of Peshawar is 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 Dr Presler, noting that 92 per cent of the 2,950 students are Muslim, 7 per cent are Christian, and 1 per cent are Hindu and Sikh, 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, and socially disadvantaged groups like religious minorities, make up 8 per cent of the students and 17 per cent 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 inter faith community in a polarized environment’, Dr Presler said. The College recently hosted a gathering of Faith Friends, the Peshawar group that brings together Sunnis, Shias, various Christian denominations, Sikhs, and Hindus. 

A missiologist and priest of the Episcopal Church USA, Dr Presler served as a missionary in Zimbabwe, a parish pastor, academic dean at The General Theological Seminary in New York City, and president of the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, before going to Edwardes.

The Integrity Project, a College initiative launched this year, has attracted provincial attention by its efforts to build personal character and social responsibility in students. Weekly discussion groups that involve every student and most faculty members are held 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, resulting in marked improvement in the academic performance of attendees. Edwardes offers ten undergraduate and graduate programs, and faculty development initiatives include collaborative leadership, active committees, skill seminars, and syllabus guidance. 

While Edwardes College is self-supporting in its operations, it is like any institution of higher education in needing extra-budgetary support for special initiatives, as Dr Presler explained while highlighting 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’, he said. ‘Think of Malala Yousafzai, the Muslim girl campaigning for girls’ education who was shot by the Taliban in Swat.’ Scholarships for the College’s 200 Christian students and 230 women students assist two communities that have been historically disadvantaged 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.’ 

Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC), an official network of the Communion, draws some 130 Anglican-related institutions of higher learning around the globe into closer relationship and cooperation. By facilitating the exchange of faculty, students, and ideas, CUAC fosters greater intercultural understanding, promotes sharing of academic and institutional resources, and encourages volunteerism to address local needs. CUAC’s Triennial Conference, hosted in rotating locations by local chapters across five continents, brings representatives of the network’s diverse populations face-to-face to learn from, and about, each other; it also offers unique opportunities to observe how the Anglican identity and ethos are lived out in each particular local community. The next Triennial will be in Seoul, South Korea in 2014. As Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams served as CUAC’s Patron for the last eleven years. In September 2012, he delivered the inaugural address of the Dr Rowan Williams Annual CUAC Lecture. More information on CUAC is available on their website, at www.cuac.org.

For further Information:

Institutional Advancement Officer Bilal Ahmad: +92.346.9099046; bilal.ahmad@edwardes.edu.pk

Principal Dr Titus Presler: w +92.91.5275154 +92.336.3267979; tituspresler@edwardes.edu.pk