Worried CAA schools staff demand DG explain visits by Roots representatives

Teachers, principals panicked that Rawalpindi group planning a takeover.

Noman Ahmed July 25, 2012


Panicked employees of schools under the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have sent a legal notice to the director-general demanding clarity over the possible takeover by a private group – something the group and the CAA have denied.

There are five CAA schools, four in Karachi and one in Hyderabad. Over last week, visits from representatives of the Rawalpindi-based private Roots School System created worry that the CAA has entered into an agreement to privatise its schools.

The school employee welfare organisation of 450 teachers sent the legal notice to CAA DG Nadeem Yousufzai, asking him to disclose the motive behind the alleged takeover. “We have asked the director-general to explain the matter of privatisation and giving the schools’ land on lease,” said the association’s Abdul Samad, who teaches Islamic Studies at CAA Model School 2. “A petition on this matter will be filed in the court of law tomorrow.”

For its part, however, the Roots School System told The Express Tribune from their office in Islamabad that no such plans were in the offing. Roots representative Amir Wakeel told this newspaper on Wednesday that the chain has not yet expanded to Karachi and these accusations were uncalled for. “We do not have any franchise system and we do not take over schools in such a way,” he said.

Wakeel’s stance was corroborated by the CAA’s DG who explained in a statement on Wednesday the technicality that the schools were established on government land and cannot be sold to a private party. What has been happening is an exercise in improvement. The CAA had consulted a number of private organisations on improving education standards and Roots was one of them. “After identifying the strengths and weaknesses in our schools, the experts will just inform us about which areas need improvement,” he said.

It does not appear that the teachers are convinced, however. On Tuesday, scores of teachers and staff gathered outside the CAA’s head office and the Karachi Press Club to protest against what they are calling a “secret deal” between the CAA and Roots while keeping the stakeholders, including principals and teachers, in the dark.

“From Chaudhry Faisal Mushtaq, who is the executive director at the Roots School System, to Sumaira Tanveer, who is a branch head, all of them have made visits to the schools from last week during the vacations,” said the welfare association’s Abdul Samad, adding that, if the purpose were just to evaluate their performance then that wouldn’t make sense in the absence of students. “The Roots representatives asked the schools to present a record of its teachers, salary structure, and student fee structure,” said Samad. “Their team even made land measurements.”

The schools are on the defensive. “What kind of standard do they want to improve?” asked Samad. “Of all the 400 students in our schools who sat the matriculation exams only three scored ‘B’ grades while the rest of them passed with ‘A’ and ‘A-1’ grades.”

All four schools in Karachi were set up by the aviation authority in 1960 of which one school runs till the intermediate level. Around 430 teachers work there with a student body of about 5,000. A CAA official from their human resources department who did not want to be named told The Express Tribune that the very first civil aviation school, which is located by the Ramada Plaza Karachi Airport Hotel, was opened in 1960 on a piece of land donated by the Kulsoom Bai Valika charitable foundation.  The success of the first school paved the way for the rest of the three schools which are being run semi-privately under a board of directors.

As talk of possible privatization spread, the teachers on contract took the opportunity to start demanding permanent jobs where they had been working for decades. “Like other CAA employees, we are not entitled to benefits such as health insurance,” said the association’s vice president Sarah Donald. “We’ll don’t even receive pensions after retirement even though we are paid according to government pay scales.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.