ISLAMABAD-Around 155 scholars sent to China on Chinese Language Scholarship Programme are facing severe financial miseries as the Punjab government has stopped the project funding and left the scholars in the lurch, The Nation has learnt on Friday.

The scholars were selected for the Chief Minister’s Chinese Language Scholarship Programme initiated by ex-CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to train the graduates to learn Chinese language at China and utilise their expertise in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPEC) projects.

This was the fourth batch of the programme in which 155 students were selected to learn Chinese language for two years (2017-19) and obtain HSK-5 language certification from Chinese universities.

But the number of students at China told The Nation that University of Education (UoE) Township Campus Lahore, managing the project, has seized the funding since April 2019.

Students also told that they are deprived of their monthly stipend of 2800 Yuan and facing difficulties to run their day to day affairs.

The project launched in 2015 had trained 345 students successfully but has abandoned the Phase-IV students and not replying to their quires also.

Officials also informed The Nation that the government had taken surety bond of Rs4.5million from each student as a guarantee that they will return back to Pakistan.

Other than Rs4.5 million, the government had fixed 2800 Yuan per month for each student to carry their daily expenses there.

The officials said that the overall cost for 155 students, including tuition fee and monthly stipend was around 100 million, while the funding has been stopped now when students are still enrolled in the program.

Officials also said that the students were sent to learn Chinese language in the universities of Shanghai, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Wuhan and Hebei.

“Students living there in miserable conditions even don’t have the fee to appear in Chinese language exam HSK-5 for which they were sent there,” officials said.

They also informed that the funding of the project was stopped before November 2018 by the Higher Education Department (HED) –Punjab, and UoE, was managing funds since November from its own resources. “However, now the university itself has stopped sending the stipend as it cannot bear the expenses anymore,” said the official.

Muhammad Gohar Raza, a student in Shanghai University told The Nation: “I have nothing left to eat, nothing left to buy anything to eat, and nothing left to pay my phone and other bills. For the past three days I just had eaten the breakfast because I don’t want to waste the money”.

He also said: “in China we are not allowed to do any part time job because it’s legally not allowed for overseas language students. We are helpless here at this situation”.

Another student Umair Safdar said that this is the second time the scholars here have faced stoppage of funding as earlier it happened when the government was changed. Student Mohmmad Samsam-ul Haq said that only three months for the conclusion of their scholarship are left and government is disgracing them in their host country by not releasing their funds. “Students are borrowing money from home and Chinese citizens, it is a humiliating situation,” he said.

Project focal person from UoE Saqib Anwar informed The Nation that funding was not released by the government since November and university was managing the project with its own resources.

“But now our accountant has given up,” he said. He said that four universities hosting the students under the programme have also not been paid tuition fee due to non-availability of funds.

He said: “we are in contact with the government and release the funds as soon as we receive”.

Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary HED-Punjab Dr Hammad talking to The Nation said that HED has asked finance department to release the funds for this project.

He said that HED sought release of Rs200 from Punjab government for the project and it is likely the amount would be in three weeks.