Educators protest planned privatisation of schools

Say teachers across Punjab will resist takeover of schools by private sector

Qaiser Shirazi May 18, 2024


While the Punjab government has sought applications from the private sector to buy 13,000 state-run schools, teachers’ bodies across the province announced wearing black bands on their arms during lectures and staging protests and strikes.

Teachers and their leaders have condemned the Chief Minister's "anti-education policy, saying the government told the teachers during meetings that the government schools would not be privatised, but later the regular schedule was released.

According to the Punjab Teachers Union, the SES Teachers Association, and the Educators Association, out of 48,000 government schools throughout the province, 13,000 schools will be privatised in the first phase. Additionally, 567 schools with no teachers will be shut down, while 2,700 other schools having only one teacher will be merged with other schools. Furthermore, the rationalisation of school teachers will also be carried out by sacking teachers and sending redundant teachers to the surplus pool during the summer break.

The Department of Education Punjab has officially named the privatisation as "Public Schools Reorganisation Programme” and welcomed applications from potential buyers interested in acquiring public schools by June 5. The programme aims to complete the privatisation of schools and the rationalisation of teachers during the summer break.

According to the ministry, eligible buyers include, NGOs, private school owners, overseas Pakistanis, individuals involved in private education, and educated men and women.

Muhammad Shafiq Bhalwalia, the central secretary general of the Punjab SES Teachers Association, has strongly condemned the CM’s anti-education policy and said that privatisation won’t be allowed. A scheme had been imposed to divide teachers’ bodies by creating at least three groups in each body. He warned that the privatisation move would lead to a surge in fees at government schools and that underqualified teachers would be hired at lower salaries. Plazas, commercial parking plazas, shops, and malls would be built on the most expensive commercial properties of government schools, which would ultimately cripple the entire education system, he further warned.

Punjab Teachers Union Secretary Atiq-ur-Rehman lamented that first teachers were divided into groups and now the government had announced privatisation. Rashid Siddiq Anjum, the prominent leader of the AGEGA, urged teachers to protest against the government's privatisation plan by wearing black armbands in school as the process of teachers’ reduction had already begun.

Malik Amjad, Akhian Gul Tahir and Basharat Iqbal Raja of the Educators Association also declared that they won’t allow government schools to be privatised. They reminded the provincial chief executive of her earlier promise. They warned that privatisation would make education unaffordable for the poor and exclude their children from the education system. The educators alleged that the government planned to privatise more than 25,000 schools in the second phase, aiming to retain only 10,000 government schools in the province.

They declared that no buyer would be allowed to take possession of government schools and any attempts to do so would be met with strong resistance.

Currently, 230,000 positions of teachers are vacant in government schools and 30% of schools do not have a permanent head. Furthermore, the privatisation decision has also banned the recruitment of new teachers.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2024.


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