As many as 300 students of the National College of Arts (NCA) staged a protest on Monday in support of four senior faculty members of the Departments of Architecture and Fine Arts.
The protest, led by the Architecture Department, was held after the contracts of Architecture Department’s assistant professors Arfan Ghani and Syed Aqeel Kazmi and Fine Arts associate professors Laila Rahman and Maryam Hussian expired on Monday. The teachers said their contracts had been ‘terminated’ by the principal for personal reasons. The principal said the college Board of Governors (BoG) had decided not to extend their contracts and he had nothing to do with the decision.
Students protest on campus
The protesters, largely peaceful, blocked the main entrance of the college in order to prevent the resumption of classes. They held placards demanding the removal of the Acting Principal Bashir Ahmed.
Bashir Chaudhry, a final year Architecture student, said that the teachers were very good and very popular among the students. “The college has lost some great teachers today and we are not just going to sit and mourn the loss,” he said.
As a continuation of the protest, faculty members, including those whose contracts had been terminated, held a press conference at the Press Club on Monday. The teachers demanded the immediate removal of the officiating principal and expressed reservations over his appointment. They said that the termination orders were ‘illegal’ and demanded that the teachers be reinstated. A protest letter, signed by 35 teachers, was also presented at the press briefing.
Ghani challenged the authenticity of the contract termination letters saying that the executive committee of the BoG denied making any such decision. He said that the competent authority, the Board of Governors in this case, had been by-passed ‘illegally.’
He said that Ahmed had ‘undermined the integrity of the procedure.’
He said that the teachers had not pressured or advised the students to hold a protest, adding that it was a decision taken without any influence from any of the teachers.
Associate Prof Laila Rehman of the Fine Arts Department said that Ahmed’s appointment was against the rules as he was preferred over candidates who were more senior and had better credentials.
Ahmed, who took charge as the officiating principal in July 2011 and is also the Head of the Fine Arts Department, told The Express Tribune that the BoG had denied an extension of contracts for the teachers in question. He said that he had no authority to extend or terminate contracts without the approval of the BoG. He denied rumours of a personal grudge against the affected teachers saying that he had no enmity with any of them.
He accused the teachers of using the students for their personal agendas, hurting both the students and the reputation of the institution. He said that the teachers were called to a meeting on Monday morning to discuss the matters, but they refused to attend.
An NCA staff member, seeking anonymity, told The Tribune that the terms of all four teachers had expired and it was beyond the principal’s control to extend them on his own. “The matter had been referred to Executive Council Chairman Mian Ijazul Hasan, who couldn’t proceed on the matter as he is in the USA. So the matter was sent to the Board of Governors, which decided not to extend the contracts,” he said.
Ghani, however, said the case had not been considered by the board. He said that the case was only discussed in the Executive Council meeting, where no such decision to termination was taken.
The students have vowed to continue the protests till their demands are met. The faculty also announced a complete boycott of classes till the administration meets their demands. The college had re-opened on Monday after the Punjab government’s call for closure for fumigation of all educational institutes.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2011.
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