Hundreds of teachers and school owners gathered at D-Chowk in the federal capital on the call of All Pakistan Private Schools and Colleges Association (APPSCA) on Thursday.
The agitated educators assembled to protest against the prolonged closure of educational institutions, unemployment of thousands of teachers, increase in child labour due to prolonged closure of schools, economic woes of school owners, and delays in introducing a relief package for them.
The long march was attended by a large number of owners and staff of private educational institutions, nationwide associations, civil society, pick-and-drop service owners, and others associated with the field directly or indirectly.
The protesters marched towards D-Chowk from National Press Club (NPC), holding placards and banners, demanding an immediate reopening of educational institutions across the country. They also shouted slogans in support of their demands.
Meanwhile, heavy contingents of the Islamabad police were deployed along the route with water cannons to deal with any untoward situation arising as a result of the protest. The police stopped the protesters at Tarnol, Chungi 26, Motorway Chowk and Golra Mor and detained some of them for a brief period while traffic coming into the capital was also blocked through road obstructions, leading to long queues of vehicles being formed.
After finally overcoming all impediments, the protesters from different cities, including Lahore, Peshawar and Rawalpindi, managed to reach D-Chowk. Addressing the participants, the leaders of the long march announced reopening educational institutions on April 12 in defiance of the decision of the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) to keep the educational institutions closed until April 28.
They alleged that markets, shopping malls and other activities continued as usual but schools had been closed as part of some conspiracy. The continuous closure of educational institutions was creating an educational crisis in the country, they added.
All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) President Kashif Mirza participated from Lahore while All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran President Ajmal Baloch, along with other trader associations’ leaders joined the protest as well. Mirza claimed that their convoy was stopped en route to D-Chowk and the teachers among them were beaten with sticks and demanded an immediate release of the arrested educators.
He stated that children are the architects of the nation.
APPSCA President Malik Abrar Hussain congratulated all stakeholders on a successful long march despite the administration’s attempts to stop the protestors. He said that the sit-in would continue from April 11 until the recommencement of educational activities with 50 percent attendance.
He said that the closure of educational institutions was not in the interest of the country, adding that the future of children should not be turned bleak. He expressed that the teachers should be respected and anti-education measures should be revoked.
Also addressing the protest, Baloch said that the demand by the private schools' associations was legitimate, adding that the private institutions and paper industry was on the brink of collapse.
He said that the country's educators and business community were facing severe difficulties, particularly businessmen associated with the education sector. Baloch questioned that if the prime minister had announced that the businesses would not be closed then who is closing them.
He demanded the re-opening of educational institutions as many businesses were attached to the sector.
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