KARACHI/HYDERABAD: University teachers across Sindh observed a black day on Monday with classes suspended at public sector universities across the province.
Karachi University Teachers Society (KUTS) and NED University Teachers Association (NETA) members wore black armbands to protest the provincial government’s intervention in the autonomy of universities and shouted slogans against the Sindh Universities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2013.
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The new law, the teachers argued, instead of making the universities autonomous, empowers the provincial government. The authority to appoint the vice-chancellor, registrar, controller of examinations and finance director has now been given to the chief minister.
It was decided during a Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa) meeting held on April 13 that classes will be suspended in all universities on Monday, while the next meeting will be held on April 26 in Nawabshah, said NETA president Professor Usman Ali Shah. A Fapuasa meeting has also been called in Islamabad to resolve this issue at the national level.
Shah also said that all classes will be resumed from today, as Monday’s protest was to inform the government of the teacher’s demands.
“We have sent [the government] our recommendations and have also given them time to go through it,” said Shah. The NETA president also said that teachers have been protesting these unlawful appointments and in favour of universities’ autonomy for the last two years. The government representatives make promises each time but all of them in vain, he said.
“In the next step we will hold a protest in Islamabad,” said Fapuasa central president Dr Naimatullah Laghari at a press conference at Sindh University, Jamshoro, on Monday. Fapuasa Sindh president Dr Arfana Mallah added that they will soon file a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the existing law.
Although the provincial government engaged Fapuasa in negotiations assuring them of taking up their recommendations, the subsequent amendment came as yet another blow to the academic community. The Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2014, further curtailed the academic oversight and replaced it with the bureaucratic control.
In May 2014 and August 2015 the provincial government advertised the posts of registrar, controller of examinations and finance director, however, strident protests by Fapuasa and university teachers associations forced the government to withdraw. Dr Laghari said they demand that the VCs and pro-VCs should be appointed from among the university professors and varsities should be given the power to appoint registrars, controllers, bursars, chief accountants and resident auditors.
“The government has been procrastinating ceding autonomy to the universities. Therefore, Fapuasa’s Sindh chapter has decided to challenge this law in the Supreme Court,” said Dr Mallah.
Addressing the protest in Karachi, KUTS president Dr Shakeel Farooqi said that today (Monday) there is no academic activity held at any public sector university from Karachi to Larkana because the Government of Sindh does not understand that teachers are the stakeholders of any varsity. He emphasised the need to de-politicise the higher education system and said the CM’s secretariat should have no role in university matters.
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The universities where academic activities were suspended include University of Karachi (KU), NED University of Engineering and Technology, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro, Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam, Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur, Quaid-e-Awam University of Engineering Science and Technology Nawabshah and University of Sindh Hyderabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2016.