In the wake of massive cuts in the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC’s) budget, the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) will observe a Black Day on Monday (today).
Protests will be held across the country, and university teachers will boycott classes, demonstrate outside press clubs and wear black armbands. University academic staff will also condemn the government’s decision to bring the HEC under the control of the Ministry of Professional and Technical Education by ending its autonomous status.
A total of Rs12 billion were not released during the fiscal year 2011-12 – Rs6 billion which were meant for development and another Rs6 billion for recurring expenditures. For the fiscal year 2012-2013, Rs10 billion less than HEC’s demand were allocated to the commission.
“We are surprised as to why the government even cut Rs6 billion from the recurring expenses of HEC as the universities are unable to pay utility bills or staff salaries even,” said FAPUASA President Kalimullah Baloch while talking to The Express Tribune via telephone from Quetta.
Baloch added that office-bearers of the FAPUASA will meet in Islamabad on June 27 to discuss their future line of action. “We will completely boycott classes if our demands are not met,” he maintained. He added that the FAPUASA will protest against the alleged unjustified sacking of 12 lecturers from Nawabshah’s Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University.
Referring to the government’s decision to revoke HEC’s autonomous status, he said: “This is an attempt by politicians and bureaucrats to control education.”
Meanwhile, Vice Chancellors Committee Chairperson Syed Imtiaz Gilani said his organisation was shocked over the budget cuts, which will have a significant impact on higher education. “If this attitude towards higher education continues, the standard in public sector universities will be no different from that in government schools,” he remarked.
He added that a number of foreign scholars currently in Pakistan, as well as development projects, will be severely affected. “In my university alone, University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Peshawar, around 100 foreign scholars will be affected due to this decision,” Gilani said.
Meanwhile, Dr Munir Ahmad, a senior professor of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) who is also the president of the university’s Academic Staff Association, said: “The decision has created panic and severe resentment among university administration as well as the teaching and non-teaching staff.”
As a result of the financial crunch, he added, universities will have to increase fee tariffs in addition to kicking out staff.
UAF Vice Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan said: “If the Punjab government does not provide funds, the university will not be able to pay salaries to its employees or clear utility bills.” He said the university’s personal budget had no space to purchase diesel and petrol to run power generators during load shedding hours.
The vice chancellor explained that in the wake of the financial crunch he has requested the Punjab government to bail out the university which is on the brink of bankruptcy.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT IN FAISALABAD
Published in The Express Tribune, 25th, 2012.