Balochistan: Hunger strike for not teaching?
Schools have been turned in to guest houses for politicians and the teachers serve as their guards or drivers.
Last week about 100 teachers of state-run schools in Balochistan launched a hunger-strike "unto death" outside the Quetta Press Club to pressurize the government into issuing a notification for the acceptance of their demands. They asked for a restructuring of their pay scale, conveyance allowance, and investigation into embezzled money.
This sort of activity is quite popular in Balochistan. Teachers of state-run schools often resort to protest for a rise in pay scales, particularly when the annual examinations are near, in order to exert maximum pressure on the government. Teachers from far flung areas also turned up to this protest in Quetta only to show their strength, making the protest even more effective. Their strike ended after an assurance that notification would be issued soon.
Teachers are regarded as spiritual leaders and undoubtedly play a significant role in building a bright future for the nation's youth. Indeed, many teachers are doing so in Pakistan. However, as far as Balochistan is concerned, this is not the case. It has a high number of ghost schools and ghost teachers as compared to other provinces. A single visit to rural Balochistan will serve as an eye-opener, and will confirm the number of absentee teachers.
Most school buildings are turned into guest houses, and teachers are employed as security guards to the political and tribal figures. If not this, then the teachers can be found working as drivers and shopkeepers, or they are engaged in small businesses. In Quetta, some teachers were seen driving auto rickshaws too.
The girl's schools are worst. Female teachers are hardly ever present and it is for this reason that one cannot find many female students from rural areas in higher education institutions in Quetta or other parts of the province. There are tens of thousands of primary schools and a few hundred high schools. Yet, the drop-out rate is very high in Balochistan. How can you expect students to study without a teacher?
Teachers in Balochistan are wrongfully resorting to trade unionism. Public servants are barred from trade union activities or resorting to collective bargaining. However, the Teachers Association is the biggest trade union organization in Balochistan that dictates decisions to the government at will.
It was astonishing that concerned officials in informal discussion agreed that there is corruption at large scale in the education department and teachers do not perform their duties in far-flung areas. I agree with the demand of teachers; they must be paid sufficiently. Still, there must be a check on teachers and they must be held accountable. There has to be a reason why the number of teachers is rising, while the literacy rate is rapidly falling.
Thus, these teachers should be subjected to an obligatory monthly, or weekly check to ensure that they are doing their jobs. Moreover, teachers should be prevented from collective bargaining; this is the law of the land, why has it not been implemented?