KARACHI: The teachers were promised. They were almost certain their grievances would be redressed, although, they may have had a hunch to the contrary which is why they decided to continue their sit-in outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC).
Little did they know that they were in for a cruel joke. The day the education secretary, Qazi Shahid, was supposed to meet them to discuss their grievances, he was transferred from the post. The new education secretary, Ahsan Mangi, hasn't assumed charge yet and is therefore in no position to deliberate with them.
Now, the 957 headmasters, headmistresses and head teachers from across the province, who even took a beating from the police a day earlier, have no option but to call for a hunger strike. They have even warned of a 'mega protest' on October 2, if the issue is not resolved until then.
For the last couple of days, the teachers, including women, have been protesting the Sindh government's apathy in regularising their appointments. The protesters claim that the provincial government wants to appoint its favourites in their stead.
The teachers said that a test was conducted by the Government of Sindh through IBA Sukkur in 2015 for the posts of headmasters and headmistresses. Subsequently, a committee was formed by the chief secretary, which conducted interviews. Their degrees and credentials were verified by the Higher Education Commission, while they also underwent a 14-day training course through SZABIST the provincial Institute of Teachers Education. Appointment letters were issued to 957 candidates who cleared all the tests on contractual basis and the entire process of appointing the candidates was conducted on the orders of the Sindh Chief Minister.
On Sunday, a clash erupted as the protesting teachers, who had gathered outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC), forced their way through the barricades set up by the police to march toward the CM House. According to Saddar DSP Kunwar Asif, the teachers had only sought permission to hold a peaceful protest outside the KPC, but when they started heading toward the CM House, the police had to use water cannons and tear gas shells to stop them.
Later in the day, additional secretary of School Education and Literacy Department met a five-member delegation of the headmasters. However, given the transfer of senior officials of the school education department, including secretary Agha Ejaz Pathan, deputy secretary Abdul Hafeez Mahesar and secretary Qazi Pervez Shahid, coupled with the appointment of the new secretary, Ahsan Mangi, who remains without charge until now, the deliberations proved unsuccessful. Consequently, the protesters have announced to stage a hunger-strike starting today, while warning of a mega protest on October 2. Meanwhile, a representative of the headmasters, Sajid Rao, has warned that the sit-in would continue until their demands were met. "Our central working committee has resolved to hold a hunger-strike camp from tomorrow," he announced, adding that the headmasters would also carry out such protests at the divisional levels.
"We request Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilawal Bhutto, chief minister Murad Ali Shah and the provincial education and literacy department to listen to us," said Rao. "We are literate people and we expect that our concerns would be addressed peacefully," he said, warning that the headmasters were willing to face death if their legitimate demands were not heeded.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2019.