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September 16, 2019

Teachers suffer batons and water cannons as they try to march on CM House


September 16, 2019

Police officials subjected headmasters of government schools to baton charges and water cannons on Sunday after they attempted to march on the Sindh Chief Minister House to demand that their jobs be regularised.

The protesters gathered in front of the Karachi Press Club at 11am for their demonstration, following which they tried to move towards the CM House. The police, however, barred them from even reaching near the provincial headquarters of the Sindh Boy Scouts Association on Din Mohammad Wafai Road.

Due to the struggle between the officials and the protesters, at least five teachers, including two women, were injured, while 35 others were detained from the site of the demonstration. The headmasters later held a sit-in on the road and demanded the release of their arrested colleagues.

Single-point agenda

According to the central working committee (CWC) — a 20-member body formed by the 957 headmasters appointed by the Sindh government in 2017 through the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Sukkur — these headmasters were appointed on merit.

The committee stated that these headmasters have been serving at public schools in different districts of the province for almost three years now, so they have the right to demand that their jobs be regularised.

However, the officials of the Sindh School Education & Literacy Department (SELD) insist that these headmasters need to get qualified from the Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) or else the department reserves the right to cancel their contractual jobs.

On the other hand, the then education minister Syed Sardar Shah had in the past declared on the floor of the Sindh Assembly that the headmasters appointed through the IBA were the most competent school managers, while the results of the schools functioning under their supervision were better than that of other government schools.

The then minister had also vowed to regularise the jobs of these headmasters this year by December. But last month Sindh CM Syed Murad Ali Shah reshuffled his cabinet and took on the additional portfolio of education.

Later on, SELD Secretary Qazi Shahid Pervaiz issued a notification saying that the education department will not accept the headmaster cadre employees appointed by a third party unless they get qualified from the SPSC.

However, CWC member Alamgir said that laws can be changed if there is any legal issue with the appointment of the headmasters, adding that the government should remove all hindrances.

“We are not blue-eyed boys. But all of us have qualified after a strenuous process of appointment, and that too conducted by a well-reputed institution: the IBA.” Those who were declared successful in the appointment process were assigned the job of headmaster at government schools in different districts of the province, including 95 headmasters in Karachi.

Alamgir claimed that the provincial government wishes to fulfil the promises made during the election campaigns about providing government jobs to workers of their party, which is why the education department is trying to remove competent headmasters, otherwise there is no concrete reason to get rid of hundreds of headmasters. “Currently, over 2,000 positions of headmasters at various government schools are vacant, so it’s beyond all reason how the government can disrupt the ongoing system by removing contractual headmasters and making fresh appointments following the same recruitment process.”

He said that the protesting headmasters have brought a single-point agenda. “We want our jobs to be regularised and nothing else. It is our due right.”

Government response

The headmasters had also protested at district level in July after they were informed that the education department was planning to sack all the contractual headmasters and make fresh hiring through the SPSC.

However, the education department extended their contracts for one more year with the condition of no further extensions. But the issue of regularisation of their jobs continues to hang in the balance. Consequently, the headmasters held a protest on Sunday to try to pressurise the government into accepting their demand. However, no official of the education department was present on the site to negotiate with the protesters.

Political support

As the protesting headmasters gathered outside the press club on Sunday morning, MPA Raja Azhar Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf arrived at the site of the demonstration.

Khan told the media that the teachers want their due rights, so the Sindh government should fulfil its promises. He also vowed to take up the matter with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party in the provincial assembly.

A day earlier, MPA Nusrat Bano Sehar Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional had expressed the same views in a statement issued to the media. She had assured the protesting headmasters that she sympathised with them and that she would raise their issue in the PA.

Sit-in ends for now

CWC member Faiza Fatima said that a five-member delegation of the protesting headmasters held a dialogue with the education deputy secretary and the District South deputy commissioner.

She said the government agreed to release the arrested protesters, and the teachers’ delegation assured the officials that they would call off their sit-in until Monday morning. She, however, added that they would continue protesting until the government accepts their demand. “We were told to restrict our protest to the press club and send another delegation on Monday to meet the education secretary for further dialogue. Therefore, we have decided to end the sit-in for now.”