Some 40 young Catholics aspiring to a place in the Higher Central Services (CSS), Pakistan’s elite permanent civil service, have enrolled in preparatory classes started by the Catholic Board of Education in the Archdiocese of Lahore on last year. Only five attended its last session.
Aspirants started dropping out due to the difficult program. Still, 12 took the CSS 2021 exams held in February. None of them passed the written exam, the results of which were announced on September 30.
The first group included Sana Komal, 26, who works in the administrative department of Kinnaird College for Women. “It was hard to prepare for the exams by working more than eight hours. Studying for three hours, three days a week was not enough, ”she told UCA News.
Like her, most Christian aspirants for elite public office hold full-time jobs and are entering the competition for the first time. “We were only taught six compulsory subjects. There was not enough guidance for electives, ”Komal said.
The CSS exam consists of four parts: a written exam, a medical exam, a psychological test and an oral test. Applicants must be between the ages of 21 and 30 and have completed 14 years of study in post-primary classes.
Reviews are carried out by the Federal Public Service Commission for assignments in the fields of commerce and commerce, customs and excise, district management, foreign affairs, income tax, information public, military land, office management, audit and accounts, police service, postal service and railways.
Unfortunately, the standard of our schools has declined over the past two decades. The concept of community development is rare
In 2019, the Church began offering young Catholics a six-month preparatory course, for which private lessons would cost around 70,000 rupees (US $ 410). The dioceses of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Multan and Lahore charge only 1,500 to 3,000 rupees and also provide textbooks and learning materials.
Asher Javed, CEO of the Catholic Board of Education, is confident that CSS classrooms will usher in change. “We hired successful CSS alumni and lawyers and the sessions in Lahore were fully funded by Archbishop Sebastian Shaw,” he told UCA News.
The board has registered several students for the next CSS session at St. Anthony’s College in Lahore. Christian mission schools are popular in the predominantly Muslim country for their discipline and higher education. Former President Asif Zardari and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are both alumni of Catholic schools in Karachi and Lahore respectively.
According to Yaqoob Khan Bangash, a Catholic historian and educator, Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, is the last high-profile politician to attend a missionary school.
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“Unfortunately, the standard of our schools has declined over the past two decades. The concept of community development is rare. The gap is widening between middle and upper class Christians, ”he told UCA News.
Many well-educated Christians have left the country while those who remain struggle to meet the minimum requirements to qualify for the competitions.
Christians tend to opt for careers other than public service even though the national government has allocated a 5 percent quota to minorities in public sector jobs. Many of the minorities are poor and illiterate people who end up in menial jobs, claim rights organizations.
Educators and activists cite discrimination and poverty as the two main obstacles to progress for Pakistan’s Christian minority. “Illiteracy is also a huge problem among young Christians who can only hope for a miracle,” Bangash said.
Vacancies continue to pile up as aspirants also fail to fill the quota for CSS exams
In 2019, a one-man commission was formed to push federal and provincial ministries and departments to enforce the 5% minority quota in government jobs. The Punjab provincial cabinet even approved a 2% quota for non-Muslims in universities.
Yet of the total vacancies in the public sector, 43% are reserved for minorities.
On September 28, the Supreme Court expressed concern over more than 30,000 vacant positions for minorities. The highest court noted that the federal and provincial governments of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are not recruiting minorities and asked them to take swift action and submit a report.
Vacancies continue to accumulate as aspirants also fail to fill the quota reserved for CSS exams. Last year’s exam was an exception as a Christian candidate managed to pass it. But it was a rare achievement and hardly reflects the reality on the ground.
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