Monday September 27, 2021

Attacking teachers

June 02, 2021

Protest is a right that people need to exercise when they feel their grievances are falling on deaf ears. The highhanded manner in which the authorities have responded to protesting employees and teachers in Peshawar is something no civilized society can or should tolerate. The police arrested dozens of teachers and dispersed a protest rally by heavy baton charge and tear gas. The protest was taking place near the provincial assembly. We don’t know if any member of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly met the protesting teachers, but it is clear that several teachers received injuries when the police attacked them. This brutal use of force against unarmed protesters has sent shock waves across academic circles in the country, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where university employees and teachers have announced a pen-down strike.

The fact that the protesters, who came from various universities, marched over eight kilometres in scorching heat to reach the provincial assembly speaks volumes of the hardships they must be facing. Their demands deserved a sympathetic hearing by the education managers of the province but there seems to be an unwillingness to address the issues that the higher education sector is facing. In a way what is happening to higher education in provinces is a reflection of the sorry state of education that is being mismanaged at the federal level. That is why one of the demands by the protesting academics is the establishment of higher education commissions at the provincial level. Then there are important issues of increasing students’ fees and reduction in allowances of teachers. On the one side, the HEC has been pressing universities to generate more of their own revenues by increasing fees and on the other the teachers are facing reduction in their allowances.

The federal and provincial governments must address the issue of higher education in the country as a priority. The registration of FIRs is not a good idea, and the university employees should be allowed a reprieve in this matter. The difference in how our governments treat protesting extremists and protesting teachers or doctors or nurses is glaring. Peaceful demonstration is a right and authorities must respect this right and resolve the issues that have forced people to come out on streets. The cases that have been registered against senior representatives of the university staff under the Pakistan Penal Code and the National Disaster Management Authority Act will not make things any better.