The Punjab Teachers Union is pressing on with protests across the province to press the government to withdraw plans to set up district education authorities under the new local government law.
The union organised a protest in Sheikhupura on Monday that was the first of a series of demonstrations to be staged across the province, culminating in a rally and sit-in in Lahore on November 28, said union officials.
PTU President Syed Sajjad Akbar Kazmi has announced a schedule of 18 demonstrations across the province. The next protest is in Rahim Yar Khan on October 28, and subsequent protests will be held in Muzaffargarh, Lodhran, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur and Multan. The protests are to conclude on November 28 in Lahore where more than 30,000 teachers are to hold a rally at Nasser Bagh and stage a sit in outside Chief Minister’s House.
The PTU had earlier marked October 5, which is World Teachers’ Day, as ‘Protecting Teachers’ Dignity Day’, in protest at the “growing victimisation” of Education Department employees.
The union’s grievances include the penalisation of teachers whose student performed poorly in exams, the growing number of assignments given to teachers outside the classroom, the conversion of all public schools to use English as the medium of instruction, as well as the district education authorities, which the union says will lead to greater political interference in teacher recruitments and transfers.
The PTU and the Schools Education Department met earlier this month and reached agreement on some matters, such as the reallocation of resources including teachers to the schools that needed them most. The two sides had been engaged in talks since August, when the union announced that its members would not take part in the government’s emergency enrolment drive.
The use of English as the medium of instruction was also discussed, with PTU General Secretary Rana Liaquat Ali saying that the department had agreed to consider removing the English requirement from the next academic year.
But there was no compromise on the district education authorities, Ali said. “We were told categorically that the Schools Education Department would not be negotiating on this,” he said.
The department has set up a four-member committee to come up with a framework for the functioning of the district authorities within a month. The PTU declined to participate in the committee’s deliberations.
Ali said: “How can we be part of something that decides the framework of a system we disagree with on principle? There can be no successful talks with the provincial government when there is no basic agreement regarding an entity which threatens teachers and their work.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2013.