Despite losing the support of Employees Workers Association from the movement against Sindh University (SU) Vice Chancellor Nazir A Mughal, the teachers are adamant that the movement will continue.
Recently, 115 teachers were promoted from BPS-19 to BPS-21 – from assistant professors, to associate at BPS-20 and professors at BPS-21. This has led many to believe that the teachers who were promoted might also pull out of the movement.
However, staying strong, despite losing the force of 2,900-men of the workers association, the teachers declared at a press conference held on Sunday to continue their protests against the vice chancellor. They say that the appointments were overdue and Mughal had already acceded to this demand even before the movement began.
“Teacher appointments on the next grades were pending and the vice chancellor had already agreed to this demand by SU teachers association before the movement,” said Dr Azhar Ali Shah, the association’s president. He dismissed the speculations that the move will create fissures in teacher unity against Mughal.
The workers association took back its support from the teachers on Friday when the vice chancellor paid a surprise visit to the house of one of its office bearers. The association leaders had discussed the matter for over five hours on July 26 before they announced to throw in the towel. Its president, Ghulam Nabi Bhalai said that an overwhelming majority supported reconciliation if their demands were met.
But the SUTA president said that administrative workers only took part in the movement so that their own demands were met. “Our [teachers’] struggle is not related to any of these demands,” Shah said. “We have a four-point agenda: Remove Mughal, hold judicial inquiry into Prof. Bashir Channar’s murder, lift the ban on student unions and remove police and rangers from the campus.” In addition to embezzlement and cronyism, the teachers also hold Mughal responsible for perpetrating violence at the campus. The SUTA fears that there might be bloodshed once the students back from summer vacations. “Mughal has been patronising the Peoples Student Federation and by this he has sowed a sense of discrimination among student wings of other political parties,” said Prof. Arfana Mallah, SUTA’s general secratary.
According to her, SUTA has been pursuing the security problems at campus with Mughal’s administration for a long time. “We were even warned of a backlash after two students were killed in 2011,” she said. “But the situation deteriorated further after Dr Channar was killed.”
She said that there was a lull in clashes this year because of the two-month academic boycott and four-month-long leave of Mughal.
The teachers association also believes that Mughal is ill-suited for running the university on many counts. Dr Rabida Ali of SUTA alleged that the vice chancellor has made more than 300 appointments at different posts without advertising the jobs. She also accused him of ruining a scholarship programme worth Rs400 million. “The funds for sending 70 PhD scholars to study abroad will lapse this year,” she said. “Many scholars have qualified the required tests and fulfill the criteria but Mughal is just not interested.”
The teaching boycott has remained the mainstay of the teachers’ protest to try to pressure the government to send Mughal off on a four-month leave. Interestingly, SUTA announced that they will not continue the teaching boycott when the university reopens after the summer vacation. “We even opposed the two-month-long summer vacations because we wanted to make up for the time lost early this year when we boycotted classes in January and February,” said Prof Mallah. “We will teach, if the campus opens today.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2012.