ISLAMABAD: Thousands of schoolteachers staged a protest demonstration outside Parliament House on Thursday demanding the government withdraw its decision of placing public sector schools under the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI).
The teachers along with non-teaching staff from 390 schools first gathered in front of the National Press Club and then moved towards Parliament House. At D-Chowk, they faced some resistance from the police but the protesters managed to reach Constitution Avenue.
Before ending the protest peacefully, the protesters said schools will remain closed and next week they would hold a sit-in, which will be participated by parents and students as well.
“Next week, we will give a decisive call. Today’s show was just to make the government realise that we will not accept this decision and an amendment has to be made to the Local Government Ordinance 2021,” said Joint Action Committee Chairman Fazal-i-Mola.
Schools in Islamabad to remain closed until demand accepted; students, parents will also join protest sit-in next week, say protesters
Leaders of opposition parties, including former defence minister Khawaja Asif, former federal minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, ex-MNA Anjum Aqeel, PPP leader Sibtul Hassan Bukhari, Mian Aslam of Jamaat-i-Islami and others visited the protesters and expressed solidarity with them. They also assured them of their full support.
Holding banners and placards, the protesters raised slogans against the government, demanding the withdrawal of section 166 of Local Government Ordinance 2021 which states that the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) will be devolved to the local government and the mayor will be the reporting officer of the director general FDE.
Senior school Principal Farida Yasmin said it was unfortunate that the government had forced the teaching community to take to the streets.
“We will not accept this ordinance come what may. The local government completed its five-year term without funds, rules, regulations and bylaws. So, now through an ordinance educational institutions are being placed under the local government.”
The local government is supposed to generate its own resources and funds while Islamabad’s education sector require billions of rupees every year, something which is beyond the capacity of the local government, she said, adding in case the decision was not reversed the local government could go for privatisation of schools.
She said government representatives were saying that worldwide schools worked under the local government. But why they are not telling us that in developed countries local government is too strong and even a mayor is regarded more powerful than the legislature. But here in Pakistan, mayors are unable to get their own honorarium and offices for their representatives.
Islamabad’s mayor was unable to get office spaces for the union council chairmen, she said.
“We are here for our future generation. The government is going to place our schools under the MCI. We are federal government employees and would not work under the corporation,” said a schoolteacher, Shazia Khan.
She said the federal government never cooperated with a mayor of the opposition party so in case the opposition wins the elections what will be the future of the local government and the mayor. In this case, the federal government will leave the local government unattended, she said.
Another teacher said instead of doing experiment with the education sector in the capital, which was running smoothly, the government should focus on controlling inflation and skyrocketing prices.
Federal Government Teachers’ Association President Malik Ameer Khan and Non-Teaching Staff Association President Sardar Sadiq and others said schools will remain closed until the government withdraws its decision.
“Thousands of teachers were on roads but the government representatives did not bother to contact us. This is enough to gauge government’s seriousness towards education,” Mr Khan told Dawn on Thursday night. He, however, said all opposition parties had assured them of their support.
“I would request Prime Minister Imran Khan to look into the issue to know why the teaching community is being forced to take to the streets,” he said.
Meanwhile, senator Irfan Siddiqui chairman on Education took notice of the protest and decided to take up this issue in upcoming meeting of standing committee to be held on December 7.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2021