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September 17, 2019

Protesting headmasters to set up hunger strike camp today


September 17, 2019

Headmasters of government schools who suffered batons and water cannons on Sunday while trying to march on the Sindh Chief Minister House to demand that their jobs be regularised have announced going on a hunger strike starting Tuesday (today).

The protesters had gathered in front of the Karachi Press Club 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.

A representative of the teachers had later said that a five-member delegation of the protesting headmasters held a dialogue with Education Deputy Secretary Abdul Hafeez Mahesar and the District South deputy commissioner.

Faiza Fatima 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.”

No dialogue

On Monday the Sindh government made some changes in the provincial bureaucracy due to which the education secretary was transferred. This is why the dialogue between the protesters and the officials of the Sindh School Education & Literacy Department (SELD) could not take place.

Some of the demonstrators burned their merit certificates received from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Sukkur to express their frustration. They also shouted slogans against the provincial government and the education department.

They peacefully dispersed after 4pm, with the vow to continue their protest by setting up a hunger strike camp in front of the press club today. Civil society members, politicians and trade unionists have assured the protesters of their complete support.

PTI chides govt

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Sindh President Haleem Adil Sheikh on Monday criticised the provincial government for manhandling the protesting headmasters on Sunday, saying that the incident had unveiled the true face of the Sindh government, which was dictatorial and anti-people.

Shaikh, who is also the parliamentary party leader of the PTI in the Sindh Assembly, visited the camp of the protesting headmasters outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) to express solidarity with them and record his protest.

Later, talking to the media outside the Sindh Assembly, he said the policies of the Sindh government had miserably failed. "We condemn rendering employees jobless.” He said the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) government in Sindh had slapped what he called a ‘Section 420’ to mock and rob the masses. He said when people demanded their due rights, they were baton-charged by the police and then attacked with a water cannon.

The PTI leader condemned the use of batons and water cannons by the police during the peaceful protest of headmasters who had passed the test of the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration but still they were not regularised.

He said the PPP government did not like recruiting teachers on merit, but it wanted to distribute jobs on the basis of nepotism. He said during the last 11 years, the PPP government in Sindh had failed to improve the education sector. Sheikh warned that the PTI would join the protest of the headmasters if their demands were not met.

He said the 18th amendment had been passed with the consent of PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and the Article 149 was included in it. He added that the article was also included in the Constitution by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Sheikh said the PTI was not responsible for the inclusion of the Article 149 in the Constitution. He alleged that the PPP was using the Sindh card to cover up its inefficiency.

One demand

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 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 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.”