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September 27, 2019

Teachers walk away from classes at Sindh varsities over budget cuts


September 27, 2019

FAPUASA’s Sindh chapter observed a complete strike by suspending academic activities at all public varsities across the province against the federal government’s decision of a 40 percent budget cut allocated to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

The federation also announced it would set up weekly hunger strike camps if the government did not meet its demand till October 6 for increasing the commission’s budget. Reportedly, all universities of the province observed complete suspension of classes and rallies were taken out by the faculties holding placards in their hands and chanting slogans against the decision.

Last week on September 17, 2019, the federation had also organised a protest at varsities. In a statement issued on Friday, FAPUASA had said that the federal government had unjustly cut the budget for higher education and resultantly the universities suffered an economic crisis.

To meet the expenditure, the universities have enhanced fees, a decision which ultimately affected the right of education of the poor strata of society. Such decisions widen the economic gap and deprive youngsters of their right to education.

Besides, instead of providing any relief to the university teachers, the federal government has reduced their tax rebates to 25 percent. Protesters said it was a sheer injustice with the faculty members who had been denied other benefits in their service structure.

FAPUASA President Dr Nek Muhammad Shaikh and General Secretary Dr Akhtiar Ghumro demanded of the federal government to reverse its decision and announce the restoration of or increase the HEC budget.

They also demanded that the tax rebate be increased to 70 percent for university teachers. They also demanded of the Sindh government to enhance and release the fund for the universities and remove any corrupt vice chancellors facing inquiries of NAB to improve the standard of higher education in the province.

FAPUASA’s Sindh chapter made its stand clear that in case of non-compliance with their just demands, the protest may be extended and a new strategy would be shared with the stakeholders “for this just and legal struggle for rights”.

Addressing a presser on Thursday at the Karachi Press Club, FAPUASA senior members, including Dr Nek Muhammad Shaikh, Akhtiar Ghumro, Karachi University Teachers Society President Dr Anila Amber and Sindh University Teachers Society General Secretary Dr Arfana Mallah, said that if FAPUASA’s demands were not given a serious consideration, the federation would expand its protest across the country.

They said that that FAPUASA as a responsible body never opts for suspension of academic activities at varsities. “We deem such a move against education, but owing to the callous response on the part of the government, FAPUASA’s Sindh chapter had to unwillingly opt for this bitter and hard decision.”

For the past many years, the federation had been demanding serious measures should be taken by the Sindh government to get the universities of the province out of their financial crisis, but unfortunately no steps were taken in this direction.

“The FAPUASA Sindh chapter realised that owing to the economic crisis and ultimate budget cuts by the government, the financial burden will be borne by students and this may lead to deprivation of the right of education of a large number of students who may not afford these increased fees.”

“The budget cut is an anti-education policy. Thus, this action is tantamount to conspiracy against the downtrodden strata of society to keep them away from the right of education,” the press conference was told.

They demanded of the Sindh government to release special grants to the universities of the province along with the due funds for a 15 percent rise in salaries and PhD and MPhil allowance funds. The federation announced that after October 7, 2019, a weekly hunger strike would be observed in all the public sector universities of Sindh.