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LAHORE: The Punjab government accepted the ‘just’ demands of the schoolteachers after their sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly entered the second day here on Sunday.

“In a meeting with Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood the schoolteachers demands have been accepted,” Punjab Teachers Union President Syed Sajjad Akbar Kazmi told reporters.

He said the minister had agreed not to hand over public schools having 20 or more enrolments in each grade to Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) and NGOs.

Kazmi said he and Secretary General Rana Liaquat held a two-hour meeting with the minister before calling off the sit-in.

He said the government had also promised upgradation of teachers.

“The education minister has said the finance secretary on Monday will sign a summary regarding promoting PSTs, ESTs and SSTs into grade 14, 16 and 17, respectively,” he said, adding the minister had also ensured that the government was not planning to introduce ‘golden handshake’ for teachers of the schools being handed over to PEF or NGOs.

The PTU president said the government had also agreed to take the association into confidence before initiating the process of privatisation of any public school.

Earlier, the teachers spent night on The Mall and refused to go home till the acceptance of their demands.

On Sunday morning, a large number of teachers mostly women joined them and chanted slogans against the chief minister for not accpting their demands.

Opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Mian Mahmoodur Rashid, PPP leader Shaukat Basra, PML-Q’s Mian Muhammad Munir and former MPA Amna Ulfat also joined teachers to express solidarity with them.

They said doctors, paramedical staff and teachers were taking to the street against the policies of the PML-N Punjab government. They asked the chief minister to accept teachers demands and give them due respect.

“Owing to defective educational policies of Shahbaz Sharif not only the teachers but also poor students are suffering. Shahbaz is closing down public schools whereas Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had reopened closed schools during his tenure (2002-07), former MNA Mian Muhammad Munir said.In the first phase, the school education department last month handed over 1,000 primary schools to different NGOs that will run them in collaboration with Punjab Education Foundation. The PEF has finalised handing over the management of around 5,000 schools to private partners.

The Punjab government is accused of shedding its burden of educating children in the province.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2016