Teachers threaten strike, govt feigns ignorance

Protests threatened if govt does not commence talks by Dec 13.


Aroosa Shaukat December 12, 2013
Protests threatened if govt does not commence talks by Dec 13. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE:


While the Punjab Teachers’ Union has been reiterating its threat to launch a fresh series of protest demonstrations and boycott of work if the government does not address their demands by December 13, the Education Department (Schools) point person says he is unaware of such plans.


The union held a rally on November 28 to protest the government’s decision to establish district education authorities. They blocked traffic on The Mall for two hours.

The PTU has announced that it will launch a series of protest demonstrations, hunger strikes and rallies if the government does not address their demands, especially the rollback of the DEA plan.

The union has also said the teachers will boycott election and examination duties as well as academic activities and ensure closure of schools. PTU general secretary Rana Liaquat Ali told The Express Tribune that if their demands were not met before the deadline, they would stage province-wide demonstrations from January.

The demands

The union wants teachers to be released of all non-teaching activities, including dengue and polio awareness campaigns and school enrolment drives. It has opposed the decision to establish the DEAs, because “this will politicise the education sector”.

It has also asked the government to reconsider its decision to make English the medium of instruction. PTU central president Syed Sajjad Akbar Kazmi said despite public assurances by the government, there had been no talks with union representatives. “Teachers are being victimised. The government does not want to talk because they have no arguments,” he said.

District education authorities

At a meeting at the Programme Monitoring and Implementation Unit (PMIU) in October, the School Education Department had proposed the establishment of DEAs in accordance with the Punjab Local Government Act 2013. The department proposed coordination and monitoring at the provincial level.

The SED had proposed that the framing of rules should focus on recruitment, accountability, promotion rules and policies and transferring authority at district and divisional level.

Under the PLGA 2013, the DEAs are mandated to work towards ensuring quality teaching, infrastructure and provision of free and compulsory education for the children in the 5 to 16 age bracket.

The DEAs are also proposed to have the power to manage and approve funds for educational institutions and constitute school management councils to implement education policies.

“It will take at least another month or two before the framework for the DEAs is established,” SED Deputy Secretary Mushtaq Sial told The Express Tribune. Sial was tasked with negotiating with the PTU in the wake of the recent protests.  He said meetings were underway to establish a framework for the DEAs.

“We are working on a consensus and will ensure that no further strikes are called over the matter,” he said.

Regarding the December 13 deadline, Sial said he was unaware of it.  On November 28, hundreds of teachers from across the province, marched on The Mall. Education Executive District Officer Pervez Akhtar however said, “Almost 98 per cent of the schools in the city were open on November 28…we did not allow teachers to shut down government schools”.

He said the claims that teachers had abandoned schools were false.

Akhtar said that he was unaware of a protest schedule. He also said the issue was not city specific. “Even if such protests are called, we will ensure that government schools remain open and teachers come to schools and attend classes,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2013.

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