KARACHI: Teachers across the province are up in arms against the Sindh Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which has seized varsities’ autonomy and given the lion’s share of powers to the chief minister.
To decide what to do about the issue, the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa) held a meeting at NED University on Monday. The meeting was presided over by Fapuasa Pakistan President Prof Dr Kaleem Bareech and Sindh president Prof Dr Naimatullah Laghari. It was attended by heads of a number of public sector universities and teachers’ representative organisations.
Earlier, Prof Laghari led a delegation that met Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on January 31 and returned with the assurance that the 2018 Act’s precursors, the 2013 Act and 2014 Act, would be amended on the basis of the recommendations submitted by the association.
“The changes made in the law weren’t discussed with us. They are disastrous,” he had told The Express Tribune. Monday’s meeting decided that the government failed to hold up their end of the bargain, therefore Fapuasa’s Pakistan and Sindh chapters reject the government’s control over the admission policies and reiterate that it is a legitimate right of universities’ academic councils to do so.
It also unanimously decided that the government should take back the changes and restore the right to frame admission policies for the smooth functioning of higher education in the province.
The meeting’s participants argued that the balance of university representation should not be tilted towards the government in order for varsities to function smoothly. Particular mention was made of the clause allowing non-professors who are ‘good administrators’ to be appointed vice-chancellors of universities. Arguments were raised on the qualification of such an appointee to chair meetings of statuary bodies where matters of PhD and MPhil degrees are discussed.
The CM has granted Fapuasa time today (Tuesday) to discuss the matter. A meeting will be held on March 19 to discuss the issue. It also announced a black day today at all public sector universities, according to a press release issued on Monday.
Karachi University (KU) students and staff observed a black day on Monday against the bill. Protesters wore black armbands while working and at 11am protesters gathered in the Arts Lobby to hold a demonstration.
The protest was addressed by different associations affiliated with the varsity. They said that there will be no compromise on the autonomy of universities in the province. They said that under the guise of the 18th Amendment, an amendment has been made to end the self-autonomy of universities. The protesters maintained that this amounts to an attack on education, research and freedom of expression. Universities are institutions that came into existence on the basis of educational freedom and this right cannot be taken away from them, they cried.
Doing away with representatives of students, college principals and teachers in the syndicate of universities, including bureaucrats and bringing the syndicate and other institutions under government control is a conspiracy to impose personal decisions upon them, said members of the associations. Giving the authority of appointing of officers of Grade-17 and above to the Sindh government means that very soon the condition of the universities would be akin to that of government schools, they claimed, adding that across the world, universities decide their own admission policy, but this bill has given that power to the Sindh government instead.
Amendments in the conditions of the appointment of a VC and adding that the person must be an ‘administrator’ means that the head of the university can be a person from outside the academia.
The new law has also included a provision through which the chief minister can remove the VC following a single show-cause notice, which is entirely illegal.
The protesters decried that this was a dictatorial step, as a single person had been granted the authority to remove the VC instead of forming an independent commission to investigate the matter.
The protesters shouted slogans and demanded that the Sindh government take back the amendments. They also demanded that the universities grants be issued
A march was also held from the Arts Lobby to Azadi Chowk and it was announced that if the amendments were not taken back, then the protesters would march to the Sindh Assembly building and then onto Chief Minister House.