KARACHI: Academic activities in all public sector universities in the province were suspended on Tuesday as the teachers went on a full-day boycott of classes in protest over the financial crisis plaguing the higher education institutions.
The call for the boycott, given by the All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa), Sindh chapter, was backed by teachers’ bodies on respective campuses.
“Unfortunately, there has been no response (to our boycott) either from the federal government or the provincial government,” said Ghufran Alam, representing the Karachi University Teachers Society (Kuts), when contacted late in the evening, adding that the financial crisis universities were facing in Sindh had to do with both the federal and the provincial governments.
Say more protests in the pipeline if state doesn’t address universities’ financial crisis
Explaining this point, he said while the provincial government had not released the amount yet to ensure timely payment of the PhD allowance and the raise in staff salaries, the federal government-run Higher Education Commission (HEC) had slashed funding to the universities by 10 per cent each, which meant Karachi University (KU) would be deprived of Rs100 million in the current budget.
“If this apathy persists, we plan to go on a two-day consecutive boycott on Sept 25 and Sept 26 and then on strike for an indefinite period from Oct 1,” Mr Alam said, adding that the teachers at public sector universities across the country were keenly watching the situation and may go for a country-wide shutdown.
The university teachers in Sindh have been raising alarm over the financial crisis for the past few months, initially holding a black day, pressers and protest walks.
The decision to close universities, however, was taken last week at a meeting led by the Fapuasa Sindh chapter.
At the meeting, teachers demanded resignation of the HEC chairman who, they said, had failed to convince the federal government about the growing financial needs of universities.
They also demanded that the decision to cut funding to the universities should be reversed and that the government redress grievances of teachers on a priority basis.
They also called upon the government to restore the 75 per cent tax rebate, which used to be given in 2009 to teachers and researchers.
They also expressed concern over the prolonged delay the Sindh government was showing in the release of a grant as well as required funds to pay the 15pc increase in salaries.
Asked about the loss of students due to the teachers’ boycott, a Kuts member said universities were unable to deliver and provide quality education and research opportunities to students in the absence of funds.
“We are neither getting the recurring grant nor the contingency grant. How can we deliver in these conditions? We are forced by the government to take an extreme step. And, even if we keep the universities open, the institutions don’t have the funds to ensure that students, especially those engaged in science studies, are able to get basic lab facilities,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019