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KU education faculty in crisis

Updated July 25, 2016

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The department of teacher education, part of the faculty of education, at Karachi University.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
The department of teacher education, part of the faculty of education, at Karachi University.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Despite facing serious allegations of having misused powers for a long time, also verified by a three-member inquiry committee, the dean of faculty of education at Karachi University (KU), Prof Shagufta Shahzadi, has recently been awarded a three-year extension to continue in the administrative position, it emerged on Sunday.

According to sources, the extension awarded by the chancellor on the recommendation of the vice chancellor is being strongly opposed by teachers, who boycotted their classes last week.

“We are forced to take this extreme step as the administration has repeatedly ignored our complaints (against the dean). In fact, it played an instrumental role in extending her tenure,” said a teacher at the education department on condition of anonymity, adding that they were extremely disappointed by the vice chancellor’s decision to recommend an extension in Prof Shahzadi’s service.

Visits to the teacher education and special education departments over the past week showed that classes had apparently been suspended. While no relevant student could be spotted in the latter located on the premises of Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre on Friday morning, four students were found attending a ‘seminar’ at the other.

A similar situation was observed at the education department, where staff was present but students were absent.

Prof Shahzadi, however, insisted that classes were going on. “It is only in the education department that classes are suspended; there was no disruption in academic activities in the two other departments,” she said, adding that warnings had been sent to boycotting teachers.

On the findings of the inquiry report prepared by three senior KU teachers, she said: “The director of admissions has launched a campaign to malign me, but I have documents to prove my innocence. Only the university registrar can tell you the truth.”

Contrary to her promise, she did not share the documents when asked for.

Misuse of powers

Inquiries show that a programme initially approved for the education department is being run ‘illegally’ at the department of teacher education.

Besides that violation, Prof Shahzadi, according to a top university official, also forged documents and released an admission list on her own for that programme — the postgraduate diploma in technical education. “Only nine candidates qualified for the programme whereas at least 25 candidates are required for any evening programme to make it financially viable. Hence, the university didn’t release an admission list,” he explained

When contacted, director of admissions, Prof Khalid Iraqi also the dean of faculty of management and administrative sciences, said: “I have repeatedly stated in writing that it was not her prerogative to release the admission list. The university doesn’t own that list as it includes the names of many non-eligible candidates.”

Ignoring these concerns, the dean hired teachers from outside the university and launched the programme, which is still under way.

Conversations with senior teachers showed that no selection board had been held at the faculty for the past four years.

This was so because the dean didn’t want to lose her influence on the teacher education and education departments, both of which were currently being run by assistant professors as in-charge, they said.

In case of a selection of board, these teachers would get promotion as associate professors and become chairpersons with full powers over their respective departments.

Apart from teachers, students of the relevant faculty also complained of the dean’s attitude and alleged she deliberately delayed academic matters for no apparent reason.

The third department of special education, fortunately, is being run by a professor, who was the other contender for the deanship but did not get the post.

The present dean, sources said, often violated rules by not taking consent of senior faculty members when hiring teaching assistants and visiting faculty, and inviting experts from outside the university; she also refused to give a single MPhil/PhD course to her own faculty that included nine PhDs.

These issues was raised in a letter by the registrar dated July 15, 2016, which stated that Prof Shahzadi was violating university rules by inviting experts from outside, and ignoring her faculty when hiring teaching assistants and visiting faculty.

Complaints of the dean using abusive behaviour were rampant in all three departments where some teachers were of the opinion that “they had tolerated her enough and wouldn’t accept her in any administrative position at the department”.

These complaints, sources said, led to the formation of an inquiry committee a month ago which proved most of the allegations against the dean.

“There is a gross violation of university rules and regulations in almost every matter,” reveals the report, listing Prof Shahzadi’s “illegal actions”.

“The dean is in the habit of misusing powers as if she is running a state as a monarch. She deals with her faculty as if they were her personal belongings and there is unnecessary interference on her part in all matters,” adds the report.

It relays that the dean took admission to the BEd programme (from a college) though she herself heads the faculty of education.

According the report, almost 70pc of the course content of the two departments is similar; the courses were changed by the dean single-handedly when she took over three years ago.

The report recommends that selection boards be held without further delay and the dean be issued a stern warning and asked for an explanation.

Upon contact, KU registrar Moazzam Ali Khan said the university would take action on the report recently submitted to the vice chancellor.

“I have raised the issue of delay in selection boards, as well as the hiring of faculty from outside the university multiple times in writing with her,” he said.

He added that the university would look into how the dean got enrolled in the BEd programme.

“The university had forwarded the names of the senior-most candidates for deanship and it was entirely up to the chancellor to choose one for the job. We had also forwarded the teachers’ complaints to the chancellor.”

On the ‘illegal’ programme, he said: “The university doesn’t own the admission list and an action can be taken at any stage.”

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2016