Fight for autonomy: Varsity teachers protest against govt interference

Public universities in Sindh are observing black days in protest of the govt's advertisement of vacancies

Our Correspondents August 05, 2015

HYDERABAD/ KARACHI: The simmering friction between the Sindh government and employees of public-sector universities appears set to gradually escalate hostilities between the two sides. A token protest observed on Wednesday in several government universities portended such an episode, which as a last resort will elicit a boycott of teaching and administrative work.

The teachers and officers of the University of Karachi, NED University, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET), Sindh University and Sindh Agriculture University on Wednesday organised protest walks and wore black armbands to observe a black day. However, the teaching process remained uninterrupted.

The tug of war is over the universities' autonomy, as being defended by the teachers and officers, and the provincial government's stated exercise of authority over the higher education institutions. "We have given enough time to the government. We approached them for meetings and have offered negotiations but they have kept ignoring us," bemoaned Dr Ayaz Keerio, president of the Sindh chapter of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa).

Fapuasa and the Sindh Universities Officers Federation (SUOF) jointly gave the call for the observation of a black day on August 5 at the universities after their July 27 meeting in Karachi. They are protesting the Sindh government's July 17 advertisement of 16 posts of BPS-20 registrars and 18 of BPS-20 controllers of examinations.

Although the government seized power of the university syndicates to make these appointments through the Sindh Universities Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the teachers kept pressing for the restoration of the syndicate's authority. During the course of several meetings with provincial ministers, Fapuasa claimed they were assured that their demands were just and would be accepted. However, another amendment in the Act in January, 2015 disappointed the teachers as the provincial government did not relinquish its power.

"The issue is crucial for the efficient working of higher education institutions," explained Dr Keerio. "If the government does not take back the advertisement, then from August 20 we will boycott the university and conduct classes on roads," said the Karachi University Teachers Society (KUTS) acting president, Prof Dr Mutahir Ahmed.

Ahmed explained that while they do not want students to suffer, this is the only course of action to fight for teacher's rights. "This system of appointing a registrar or a controller of examination through the Sindh chief minister will create more confusion and problems in the system, instead of resolving the earlier ones," Ahmed pointed out.

"The teachers have so far refrained from any such protest which may affect the teaching process in the varsities. But the government's attitude is pushing us towards what we have kept as the last option," said Dr Arshad Memon, general-secretary of MUET and a member of Fapuasa's executive committee.

Speaking about their next step, the KUTS secretary, Prof Dr Harris Shoaib, said that a general body meeting has been called on August 17. He said that if the government refuses to accept their demands, then universities all over the country will be boycotted starting August 20.

He also pointed out that the government should remember their written promise of two years ago to leave appointments to the university syndicate. Meanwhile, the NETA president, Prof Dr Usman Ali Shah, was of the view that the government should have a table talk and listen to teachers' opinions as well. "The advertisement should be retracted, after which a meeting should be called for the stakeholders and committee members who will decide a better solution," said Shah.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2015. 


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