Teaching social sciences in Urdu at the undergraduate and graduate levels must be easier then teaching natural sciences and engineering disciplines. With this preamble, one may assume that the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast), a varsity that was formed for the promotion of the national language, must be achieving excellence in the teaching of social sciences.
This assumption, however, does not hold true because in contrast to the better conditions at the Fuuast Islamabad campus, which primarily offers degree programmes in science and technology, the other two campuses of the varsity in Karachi — Abdul Haq Campus and Gulshan-e-Iqbal Campus — have at least three departments pertaining to social sciences where there is no permanent faculty member. Moreover, over a dozen departments of social sciences in the two campuses have only a single regular faculty member.
Owing to the shortage of teachers, various departments functioning under the faculties of social sciences have stopped offering the MPhil and PhD programmes. As per the HEC rules, there should be at least three relevant full-time PhD faculty members in a department to offer the PhD programme.
In the absence of full-time faculty members, the two Fuuast campuses in Karachi have no option but to hire teachers on a contractual basis to ensure regular classes. However, even on this front, the varsity seems to struggle as due to low salaries, the turnover of contractual teachers is high and it is often not easy to find their replacement.
The most ironical situation at Fuuast, which is also known as the Urdu University due to its purpose of creation, is perhaps in its Urdu department where only one permanent teacher is currently employed. The Urdu department of the varsity is located at its Abdul Haq campus.
The entire faculty of education that comprises three departments — the education department in the Abdul Haq campus and teacher education departments in both the Abdul Haq and Gulshan campuses — has only a single teacher. He has to single-handedly manage the three
Both the departments for teacher education have no regular faculty members. It is pertinent to mention that the HEC guidelines say that there should be at least six permanent teachers in every department of a university.
Similarly, the departments of Pakistan studies, Islamic history, general history and English at the Abdul Haq campus are being run by one permanent faculty member each. The same is the situation at the English and law departments of the Gulshan campus.
The Sindhi and Arabic departments of Fuuast, which are located in its Abdul Haq campus, fare better than the Urdu department having two teachers each. The department of social works has no regular teacher while the faculty of Islamic studies under which three departments are functioning has just three teachers. The department of business administration where around 900 students are currently enrolled has three teachers.
Senior teacher Dr Kamal Haider says there should be at least 10 teachers for running a department as the number of students has been increasing every year.
Talking to The News, he said the varsity paid Rs35,000 to normal contractual teachers monthly while cooperative teachers, a special category of contractual teachers, received Rs700 per hour.
He added that a 10 per cent tax was also deducted from the amount the contractual teachers received, due to which new contractual teachers were not willing to teach at Fuuast as they had better opportunities at private varsities.
He lamented that due to the lack of teachers, the quality of education at Fuuast had been affected with students missing classes and no research activities taking place.
Dr Haider said the new management of the varsity had been informed about the crisis and asked to hire new teachers. He explained that last year, Fuuast had conducted tests and interviews for hiring teachers but no progress happened after the interviews. “As a senior member of the Fuuast Abdul Haq Campus Teachers Association, I suggested that those candidates who met the criteria should immediately be hired.”
He said that the selection boards of 2013 and 2017 must be held while new advertisements should be published for making fresh appointments of faculty members. “The new VC can handle the shortage of teachers within six months,” he opined.
Dr Roshan Ali, who is the current general secretary of the teachers association of the Abdul Haq campus, said the Urdu University was formed after the Urdu College that was founded at the Abdul Haq campus in 1949 was upgraded. However, the Abdul Haq campus had now become the most neglected campus of the varsity, he lamented.
He added that the infrastructure of the campus was dilapidated and even furniture was unavailable for students. The top management of Fuuast sat in their air-conditioned offices in the same city but did not bother to visit the campus, he remarked. “The Abdul Haq campus was never a priority for the management,” he said.
When contacted, the varsity’s official spokesperson stated that the new vice chancellor was busy in understanding the issues of the varsity, and declined to comment further.