Deadlock persists over schools’ reopening in Islamabad despite minister’s intervention

Published December 4, 2021
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood meets representatives of protesting Islamabad teachers on Friday. — Photo courtesy Shafqat Mahmood Twitter
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood meets representatives of protesting Islamabad teachers on Friday. — Photo courtesy Shafqat Mahmood Twitter

ISLAMABAD: Though protesting teachers on Friday showed some flexibility after Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood gave them a patient hearing but the deadlock persisted and the protesters announced that boycott of classes would continue until the government amended the Local Government Ordinance 2021.

The minister held a meeting with the action committee of teaching and non-teaching staff of schools.

After the meeting, the minister tweeted: “Met representatives of Islamabad Teachers to discuss the issue of placing the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) under the mayor. Hopefully classes will resume by Monday.”

The delegation of teachers after meeting the minister told Dawn that there was still a deadlock as they wanted to get two notifications issued by the ministry - one related to the withdrawal/amendment to section 166 of the Local Government Act 2021 and the other regarding merger of 33 colleges with FDE.

Shafqat Mahmood hopeful about resumption of classes from Monday

They said during the meeting, the minster’s response was very positive and he assured the teachers that he would play his role in amending section 166 of the ordinance.

However, they said after the meeting when the teachers sought written assurance from the relevant officials in accordance with the assurance of the minister, they refused anything in writing.

“The minister assured us in the meeting that he would play his role to remove our concerns and the ministry will also move an amendment to section 166 of the ordinance. But as soon as the minister left his office, we sought a written assurance from the officers concerned but they did not give us anything in writing. So there is no outcome of the meeting,” said President Federal Government Teachers Association Malik Ameer Khan,.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by spokesperson for the action committee, Yousaf Zia, said: “The education minister wants to resolve our issue but elements are trying to create hurdles. So our strike will continue till our demands are met.”

All 390 schools of Islamabad are currently closed for an indefinite period as teaching and non-teaching staff have launched their protest against placement of the FDE under the local government.

The ordinance, which was issued last week, drew criticism from teachers and other employees of schools.

Rejecting the ordinance, the teachers closed down schools on Tuesday for an indefinite period, demanding the government withdraw its decision to place the schools under the mayor.

On the other hand, until November 22, the FDE was supposed to regulate 423 schools and colleges in Islamabad but in a surprise move, two days before the approval of the ordinance, the education ministry through a notification put the 33 college including around 20 school-cum-colleges under another college of the ministry, but left the 390 schools under FDE for their devolution to local government.

Sources said the teachers during their meeting with the minister pleaded that the notification to separate the 33 colleges from schools should be withdrawn immediately and the minister should give a written assurance to teachers regarding amendment to section 166 of the ordinance with a timeline.

The sources said late on Friday night that another meeting was scheduled between the teachers and officers of the ministry on Saturday or Sunday in which there were chances the ministry would present its final point of view in writing to resolve the issue.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2021

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