HYDERABAD: A day after subjecting the protesting school teachers to the police-led assault in Karachi, the Sindh government has apparently relented to most of the demands of Government Schools Teachers Association (GSTA). The government schools across the province witnessed a teaching boycott on Friday as the district and taluka chapters of GSTA took to streets in all districts to register their protest over the use of baton, water canon and tear gas on the peaceful protesters.
Meanwhile, a delegation of GSTA led by its president Haji Muhammad Ashraf Khaskheli met the Sindh Education Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah in Karachi. A set of nine demands were discussed and agreed to by the two sides. The education minister, education secretary Qazi Shahid Pervez, Khaskheli and GSTA General Secretary Iqbal Ahmed Panhwar, later signed the minutes of the meeting.
Following the meeting the association withdrew its call for the strike and for boycotting the exams of secondary school certificate part I and II in the province, starting from April 1. "Sindh government is pleased to award higher grade on the basis of time scale of BPS-20 to High School Teachers (HSTs) … on completion of five years in BPS-19," reads a Sindh finance department's notification issued after the meeting.
Govt schools in Karachi to remain closed as teachers protest
This was one of the major demands of GSTA. The government constituted a committee to review and recommend changes in the 2014 policy under which the teaching cadres of primary school teacher, junior school teacher and high school teacher were replaced with other titles.
The delegation was informed that a summary will be submitted to the chief minister to allow BPS-17 grade to JSTs. Another committee will review and propose regularisation of the teachers who qualified the recruitment tests conducted by Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Sukkur, Sindh University, Iqra University and National Testing Service (NTS).
The education department will convene a meeting of departmental promotion committee within 10 days to take up the promotion cases of Junior School Teachers (JST) and HSTs. The minister informed the delegation that their demand for the group insurance similar to one given to the teachers in Balochistan is already under consideration of the finance department.
The GSTA also called for fixing the promotion ratio from HST to Subject Specialist. The government handed over this matter as well to a committee to review and submit recommendations.
Assault on protesters
The school teachers expressed their outrage over the manner in which the protesting teachers were assaulted in Karachi. "The government has violated the democratic norm which allows peaceful protests," said Farkhanda Rajput who led a protest in Hyderabad. "We strongly condemn this high handedness of Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) government."
The association president had claimed that around 150 protesting teachers sustained injuries while 200 others were detained by the police. However, the police refuted the claim and said only two teachers were injured while eight were detained. The incident also drew condemnation from the PPP's Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari besides the leaders of other political parties.
"Instead of engaging the protesting teachers in negotiations, they were beaten and humiliated. Is it democracy or a dictatorship?" said Ayaz Latif Palijo, general secretary of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), in his reaction.
Speaking at a demonstration in Nawabshah district, the association's Suhail Bhanbro said the government cannot crush their demands by beating the teachers. "It goes against the grain of democracy to use force to silence the demonstrators who are demanding their rights," said Haji Shamsuddin Soho at a protest in Sukkur.
Haseebur Rehman of GSTA Mirpurkhas chapter said the teachers have been running from pillar to post with their demands but to no avail. "Several times we have presented our charter of demands to the education minister and secretary but they return us with fake assurances."
President of All Pakistan Clerks Association (APCA) Sindh chapter, Asadullah Durrani, also condemned the assault on the teachers and expressed solidarity with them. He supported the strike call given by GSTA earlier on Thursday.
'Illegal recruitment': SC rejects Sindh teachers' appeal against dismissal
Murad orders inquiry
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah, condemning the coercive measures taken against protesting teachers, has ordered an inquiry.
The CM expressed displeasure against the action taken against protesters on Thursday, and has ordered the home secretary to conduct a thorough inquiry into the matter and report back to him.
He said that he had directed the Karachi commissioner to negotiate with the teachers and resolve the issue. "I had strictly warned him [commissioner] against coercive measures but even then action was taken," he deplored and added that this was unacceptable and uncalled for.
Shah said that teachers were respectable and they were shaping the future of our children. "They must be treated humbly and with respect," he said and added that such actions will not be tolerated.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2019.