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Tuesday July 23, 2024

Universities observe black day

By Rasheed Khalid
June 06, 2024
Dr Mazhar Iqbal, President, Academic Staff Association (ASA), Quaid-i-Azam University seen in this image. — QAU Website/File
Dr Mazhar Iqbal, President, Academic Staff Association (ASA), Quaid-i-Azam University seen in this image. — QAU Website/File

Islamabad:Dr Mazhar Iqbal, President, Academic Staff Association (ASA), Quaid-i-Azam University, has said that there is no increase in the funding for higher education since 2018, hence QAU ASA along with other public-sector universities throughout Pakistan observed Black Day on Wednesday.

The university teachers staged protest meetings in front of all press clubs in the country on the occasion. Dr Mazhar said that Rs65 billion recurring budget for higher education is stagnant since 2018 despite annual increases in salaries and pension of teaching and other staff in the universities.

The government asks universities to generate funds for the raises in salaries from their own sources. The only way left to institutions of higher learning and research is to increase the fee of students and also increase enrolment. This results in making higher education costly for parents. The influx of more students without corresponding increase in classrooms, labs, books and hostels compromises the quality of education. Expenses on utility bills and transportation put extra burden.

In a callous manner, the Federal Government even slashed this Rs65 billion to Rs25 billion which it had to restore back after the countrywide protests last week. Dr Mazhar who is also Vice-President, Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA), said that we are protesting to increase funding for education which should be an investment in future and not a source of income. He said the government’s restoring the amount is not a good news as at the most we are “back to square one.”

He said it seems PML-N and PPP forgot their promises which they made during the elections campaigns to raise the education budget to 4 and 5% of the GDP respectively. He also criticised reducing tax rebate to 25% from 75% by successive governments. He said that QAU despite being top-ranked continuously by HEC, has no funds to pay pending bills of part-time teachers, research funds, medical bills and student fellowships, even evaluation and examiner payments. And icing on the cake is that this 315th in the World QS ranking institution has no money in its kitty to pay the salary of June 2024 onwards to its staff, he said.

In line with PML-N manifesto to provide performance-based grants to universities, he said QAU deserves a bailout package of Rs5 billion. “If the higher authorities did not intervene in time and did not extend full financial support for QAU, we will lose the respect and integrity of this institution soon,” he lamented.

The ASA Executive Council in a meeting here pleaded Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Asif Zardari (Chancellor of QAU) to immediately take up this matter to extend government support for Rs500 b for education in general and Rs 100 b to universities in the Federal Capital.

Dr Ahtisham Ali, Information Secretary, FAPUASA, in a statement declared that FAPUASA will continue its struggle until the required increase in the recurring grant and also demanded a substantial increase in the higher education budget from the provincial governments.

Meanwhile, Rehan Saeed Khan and Dr Ghulam Ali Mallah, President and General Secretary of the Quaidians Forever Panel respectively for Alumni elections, held a meeting with Muhammad Shakeel, Principal Secretary to the President of Pakistan focusing on the severe financial challenges currently faced by QAU. The group will also meet President Zardari who is also Chancellor of QAU after Eid to apprise him of financial ordeal the QAU is undergoing.