A large number of women, children and men reached Karachi after having travelled 35 days in the scorching heat to conclude their ‘education march’ in front of the Sindh Assembly.
They demand that the government impose an education emergency in the province for the next 10 years. However, the march was not welcomed by any government representative, including the education minister, and no one was present to receive their ‘memorandum’, which the participants pasted on the assembly’s main gate.
Slogans and placards that bore messages such as ‘We want to fight for our schools’ and ‘We want to wage a war for education’ were held by the children and their parents.
The march, which started on March 16 from Sukkur and Larkana, received a warm welcome in various towns and cities of the province. “Our demands are simple,” said Vishnumal, secretary-general of the Awami Jamhori Party, which has organised the march. “We want our children to be equipped with pens rather than with bullets and guns.”
Mal said that the efforts of the party do not end with the march. “After this mega event, every central executive committee member of our party will be asked to monitor the school in their area,” he said. “We will force the teachers to attend school and if they don’t, we will stage a sit-in in front of the district education offices until the issue is resolved. We will also start a drive encouraging people to enrol their children in government schools rather than in private ones.”
Mal then went on to praise the public response that they have received. “A few of us started this historic march and now it has turned into a gathering of thousands,” he said. “We will force the government into imposing an education emergency in the country in order to improve the quality of education and prevent cheating in examinations.”
Other leaders of the party were also showered with roses for leading the march as minors, aged no more than five, shouted slogans behind their parents and applauded during the leaders’ speeches.
“Travelling hundreds of kilometres on foot is not easy,” said Naushero Feroze resident, Khadim Brohi, who has never attended school but wanted his children to receive education and asked for the restoration of his village’s only school. “However, I am not tired and want to continue. I do not want to see my children becoming farmers like me or even labourers and therefore I want them to be able to get education.”
A large number of participants shouted slogans against the government and feudal lords for destroying the country’s education system. “A son of a local Pakistan Peoples Party leader is a teacher in my village,” claimed Larkana’s Shahnaz Shaikh. “However, instead of teaching, he works as a contractor and the school hasn’t functioned in 10 years. We have no option but to fight for education.”
The march was also joined by students, educationists and activists of Karachi. An eighth-grade student of the Falcon Grammar School, Sarmad Chandio, joined the procession along with hismother. “When we heard about the march on TV, we decided to join in,” he said.
The memorandum, which was not received by any government official, demanded the declaration of education emergency in the province and to ensure a 100 per cent enrolment in public schools.
The memorandum also wanted the depoliticising of education and asked for at least two high schools in each taluka, one for boys and the other for girls.
Other demands included making all 270 technical schools of the province functional and to revise the curriculum.
“We want strict monitoring of schools with the help of citizens and induction of teachers must be done only on merit,” added the memorandum.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2014.