Demanding autonomy: Varsities erupt in protest across Sindh

Associations of teachers and officers boycott classes; warn govt to fulfill demands by September 9


Our Correspondents August 31, 2016
Associations of teachers and officers boycott classes; warn govt to fulfill demands by September 9. PHOTO: PPI

KARACHI/HYDERABAD/SUKKUR: In a joint bid for greater autonomy of universities, teaching and non-teaching staff of major public sector varsities across the province boycotted academic and administrative activities on Wednesday and demanded of the government to fulfill their demands by September 9.

The universities, teachers, officers and employees’ associations are fighting for their rights since three years after the amendment in the Sindh Universities Laws Act, 2013.

Karachi University Teachers Society (Kuts) president, who is also the general secretary of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa), Dr Shakeel Farooqi, tabled their demands at a press conference on Wednesday at the University of Karachi’s (KU) staff club.

Criticising the step of sticking with the provincial Higher Education Commission (HEC), Farooqi said the Punjab government had dissolved its provincial commission and is working through the federal HEC. “Our provincial HEC lacks commitment,” he said. Farooqi said despite the announcement of funds for KU in 2015, not a single penny has been released so far.

“KU is bearing a loss of Rs800 million every year on account of salaries because the government only releases salaries of eight months while the university administration manages the through tuition fees,” he said.

We came to know in the morning that the university has failed to pay the bills of hospitals that are on the panel for providing medical facilities to employees, he said, adding that these hospitals are now denying treatment.

The teachers’ society has also called a general body meeting of all universities with the Sindh Universities Officers’ Federation on September 5 at NED University of Engineering and Technology. “We will decide our next step in that meeting,” said Farooqi.

Kuts representatives also announced that classes at KU will be held on Thursday after which the teachers will hold a rally.

Province-wide

The teachers’ and officers’ associations boycotted work on Wednesday at public sector universities in Hyderabad and Jamshoro districts on Fapuasa’s protest call. A majority of teachers did not take classes in Sindh University, Jamshoro, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) and Sindh Agriculture University.

In MUET and Sindh Agriculture University, the officers’ association also held a protest demonstration. “We condemn the ad-hocism being practised in the appointments and postings of officials in MUET by the Sindh government and varsity administration,” said Engineer Sagheer Ahmed Memon, president of Mehran University Officers’ Association.

The Sindh Agriculture University’s officers also leveled charges of corruption on the varsity administration during their protest. The boycott was also observed in the campuses of Sindh Universities in other districts. However, the officers’ associations of these universities observed a token boycott of a few hours.

The Sindh Universities Officers Welfare Association (Suowa) on August 29 had announced joining forces with the teachers to win back the autonomy of the higher education institutes from the government. The association had developed differences with Fapuasa over the contentious issue of appointments of teachers on administrative positions over a year ago.

Both Fapuasa and Suowa want the government to incorporate their recommendations in the universities’ law to restore the authority of varsity-based statutory bodies. Moreover, universities in Upper Sindh, including Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur and its campus in Shikarpur, remained close as part of the province-wide boycott.

University teachers throughout Sindh wore black armbands and boycotted classes to press the government to heed to their demands.

Shah Abdul Latif University Teachers Association general secretary Akhtiar Ghumro told The Express Tribune “We resorted to boycott due to the non-serious attitude of the Sindh government towards our long-standing demands.” According to him, the government is involved in direct recruitments of teaching staff, thus bypassing the committee established for the purpose.

“This is not all, but the government is not giving regular grants to universities which results in problems in disbursing salaries to teachers. Despite clear cut orders of the Supreme Court, the government has appointed retired teachers on contract, depriving senior and deserving teachers,” he claimed, adding that their strike will continue till their demands are met.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2016.

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