QUETTA: A teenage girl from Balochistan's Killa Saifullah district, who led a protest against suspension of classes at her college owing to a shortage of female teachers, committed suicide on Friday after the college principal refused to send her examination form to the intermediate education board, family members claim.
17-year-old Saqiba Kakar, who was a second year intermediate student, and 12 other girls were suspended from sitting their intermediate final exams by Principal Abida Ghous of Government Girls Degree College, Muslim Bagh, allegedly for staging a demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club in June 2015 demanding resumption of classes at their institution.
The girls, who had travelled all the way to Quetta last year to stage a protest, said the principal had cancelled classes because there were "no female teachers at the school".
In a video obtained by DawnNews, a group of burqa-clad girls from the school talk to a reporter purportedly outside the Quetta Press Club, where they had gathered to raise their voices for their right to education.
In the footage, the girls claim they have no objection to being taught by male instructors, and despite their parents having held meetings with the college administration, classes remained suspended.
A girl in a black burqa, said to be Saqiba, is seen speaking for the rest of the group.
"Around a hundred girls are not receiving education just because of one woman [the principal]... their future is at stake," she says. She also refers to inaction on the part of the authorities regarding the matter. "For six months we were sitting on the roads... No one took any action," she says.
All the girls who staged the protest were not allowed to sit their final exams, sources in the college confirmed.
After they submitted formal apologies, the school administration pardoned all students 2-3 months back except Saqiba who, in her disappointment, took her own life, her brother alleged.
"My sister committed suicide because the college principal did not send her examination form to the intermediate board as she had led a protest procession of the college at the Quetta Press Club a few months ago against shortage of teachers,” Aizazullah, the brother of the girl, claimed.
He said that Feb 10 was the last date for sending the examination form to be eligible to appear in the intermediate examination.
"My sister repeatedly requested the principal and college administration to send her examination form, but the principal refused on the ground that she did not have the required attendance for appearing in the exams," Aizazullah claimed, adding that his sister was very disappointed over the alleged attitude of the college principal.
Aizazullah claimed that the students of the Government Gills Degree College, Muslim Bagh, had protested against non-availability of qualified teachers as the principal had removed male teachers from the college who had been teaching in the institution for the past 18 years.
The BSc classes, he said, had been abandoned because of removal of these male teachers.
He also claimed that his sister and some other students had been victimised by the principal and clerical staff for taking part in the protest procession in Quetta and highlighting the issue of removal of teachers from the college.
Despite repeated attempts, the college principal could not be reached for comment.
The incident prompted Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri to take action.
The CM directed Commissioner Zhob to probe the incident, Balochistan government spokesman Anwarul Haq Kakar told DawnNews.
Balochistan Education Minister Rahim Ziaratwal said a three-member committee had been formed to investigate the 'tragic incident'.
The education minister constituted a three-member committee comprising senior officials of the education department to investigate the matter and ordered that the inquiry report should be submitted to him and the chief minister within five days.
District Police Officer of Kila Saifullah Abid Baloch said that an investigation was under way into the incident as the hospital officials and family concerned did not inform police about it and they informed them on Saturday although the burial of the girl took place on Friday.