KARACHI: The teachers of Karachi’s government-run universities have decided to boycott classes on Wednesday, September 22 to protest the federal government’s move to cut Higher Education Commission (HEC) funds.
The teacher associations of the University of Karachi (KU), NED University of Engineering and Technology and Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology will also stage a rally on University Road. They will wear black armbands and demand the government restore funding for the HEC.
“The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) Sindh chapter will indefinitely close down universities in the province if the government does not budge from its stance and refuses to release funds to the HEC for the cash-stripped universities,” said University of Jamshoro’s Professor Badar Soomro, who is also a leader of the FAPUASA Sindh chapter.
“This decision will be formally made during a meeting of the FAPUASA in Islamabad if the government does not show a positive response by then.”
On September 16, the vice chancellors of at least 71 public universities had warned Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh that unless the government releases funds to the HEC, the centres of learning would be forced to shut down. They had also threatened to tender en masse resignations to protest against the cuts. However, the minister had advised them to generate funds on their own.
The government has decided to cut back development funds and block Rs7 billion for paying 50 per cent higher salaries to university staff. Vice-chancellors were advised to raise tuition fees, cut down on scholarships and sell or lease their properties.
Professor Badar Soomro also said office-bearers of the FAPUASA Sindh chapter will meet on Thursday and decide the future course of action.
“We have decided to boycott classes in line with the decision of the FAPUASA,” said Dr Abid Hussain, the president of the KU teachers association.
A representative of the NED University teachers association, Engineer Rashid Ali, said that teachers will hold a meeting today (Monday) that will decide how to take further action in accordance with the FAPUASA’s decision.
Dr Tauseef Ahmed of the Federal Urdu University said he fully supports FAPUASA’s decision and classes at both campuses of his university will be boycotted.
In a statement, the office-bearers of the Federal Urdu University Teachers Association said the future of the government universities is at stake and the government should release funds to the HEC.
Following the governments cut in HEC grant, the NED University of Engineering and Technology has stopped sending money to the teachers, who were sent abroad for a PhD.
Besides, development works in university have come to a halt as it is unable to pay Rs40 million for its expenditures. “We are trying our best to send money to our teachers, who are abroad for a PhD, but there are financial constraints following the cut in funds by the federal government,” said NED University’s Finance Director Sharjeel.
NED University’s Registrar Engineer Javed Aziz said that the university has to pay Rs40 million for its uplift projects, but is cash-stripped at the moment.
Meanwhile, KU officials say the universities’ science departments will have to discontinue their research and experiment activities next month as they won’t be able to afford chemicals or equipment at the laboratories.
“There is no money to pay for the lab expenses and this is bound to affect research and experiment activities in the coming days,” said KU Vice Chancellor Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi.
“The KU had demanded the HEC for around Rs2 billion as its yearly grant, but only Rs981 million were approved. Twenty per cent of this money was spent on employees’ salaries that were increased by 50 per cent by the government. Now we have no money to cover our expenses,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune September 20th, 2010.
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