KARACHI: A sizeable number of students appearing in first-year (arts) Intermediate examinations returned home without taking the examination on Friday because of a boycott announced by the Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association (SPLA), which they called off after a meeting with the education minister, officials said.

Thousands of students were appearing in English and fine arts papers at 57 examination centres set up in various educational institutions across the city.

The officials said arrival of papers, their distribution and formal beginning of the examination suffered delays of an hour or more at most of the centres because of the boycott.

SPLA was protesting against senior officials of the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK) who accused the teacher’s organisation of being part of ‘paper leaks’ in the first phase of the SSC examinations earlier this month.

“Some 200 students returned home after they could not get question papers and, therefore, could not take examinations, which began late after the education minister succeeded in persuading the SPLA leadership to call off the strike,” said a senior official in the education ministry.

However, the officials said they would reschedule Friday’s paper for such students after the conclusion of the rest of the examinations.

The students who appeared in the examinations expressed their dismay over the delay in the start of papers.

“It was extremely hard to remain at the centre and you are not given the paper even an hour after the scheduled time,” said a student whose centre was at the Government Gulshan-i-Iqbal College.

The officials, however, claimed that the delay did not affect the time given for the paper as students consumed three hours to solve the papers.

During the SPLA boycott and reports on the electronic media that most of the centres were not able to take examinations, Education Minister Jam Mehtab Dahar, along with the director general of colleges, reached Gulshan-i-Iqbal College and held a meeting with SPLA president Prof Feroze Siddiqui, Prof Syed Ali Murtaza and Prof Munawwar Abbas.

The SPLA office-bearers demanded the removal of the chairman and controller of examinations for making “false allegations” against the teachers’ organisation. They also demanded the removal of certain officials who had been posted on senior positions, despite the fact that they were facing inquiries into certain charges.

“They [BIEK officials] are alleging about us being involved in the cheating while it was just a single team headed by me which unearthed the WhatsApp cheating scam and caught 65 cases of impersonation in Karachi,” said Prof Abbas, who is general secretary of the SPLA Karachi region.

According to the officials, the minister formed a five-member committee to investigate the charges made against the BIEK officials and address the grievances of SPLA. The committee, headed by Prof A.B. Awan, comprises four senior officials and educationists. It will submit its report in three days.

“Later on the request of the minister, we called off our protest and supervised the examination,” said Prof Abbas.

The officials said Saudabad Girls College, Superior Science College, Shah Faisal Colony, Jamia Millia, and Gulshan-i-Iqbal College were among the centres mainly affected by the boycott.

SPLA had announced the protest on Thursday after an inquiry report by the Counter-Terrorism Department of police quoted the BIEK officials as saying that the teachers’ body had ‘influence’ in posting certain officials allegedly involved in or facilitating cheating at examination centres.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2017