Islamabad schoolteachers’ continue boycott of classes

Published December 6, 2021
Protesting teachers gather outside the Parliament House in Islamabad on Dec 2. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Protesting teachers gather outside the Parliament House in Islamabad on Dec 2. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
  • Parents of students to be motivated to join next sit-in
  • Teachers’ representative demands removal of Section 166 of LG Ordinance

ISLAMABAD: After holding two separate meetings with Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood and other officials of the education ministry, the teaching and non-teaching staff on Sunday announced that the boycott of classes would continue until the government revoked Section 166 of the Local Government Act.

The protesting teachers also decided to hold Parent-Teacher Association meetings in all schools on Monday to motivate parents to participate in the next sit-in outside the Parliament House, which according to teachers would be a decisive one. The protesters, however, have yet to finalise the date of the sit-in.

On the other hand, due to closure of all 390 schools of Islamabad, around 200,000 students have been out of school for the last one week due to the teachers’ strike. These students have already faced a huge loss of education during the last two years due to Covid-19 pandemic and frequent closures of schools.

“Prime Minster Imran Khan should look into this serious matter; all schools are closed in Islamabad while teachers are on the roads. The ultimate sufferers are students so it is the responsibility of the government to ensure opening of schools as soon as possible,” an official of the education ministry said on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, on Friday the action committee of teaching and non-teaching staff held a meeting with Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood to register their concerns over the Local Government Ordinance 2021, which stated that schools would come under the purview of the local government.

The protesting teachers said the education minister assured them that he would do whatever he could to remove the concerns of teachers on Section 166 of the LG ordinance.

After his meeting, the minister was hopeful that schools would be reopened on Monday as he also tweeted: “Met representatives of Islamabad Teachers to discuss the issue of placing FDE under the Mayor. Hopefully classes will resume by Monday.”

Sources said the teaching community also held a meeting with Joint Secretary Education Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani on Saturday. However, on Sunday, the teachers announced that they would not call off their strike until deletion of Section 166.

“We have decided that we will not call off our strike until the government removes Section 166 of the Local Government Ordinance. This is our one-point agenda and we will continue our struggle until the removal of this clause,” Schoolteachers Association President Malik Ameer Khan said.

Asked about meetings with the education ministry officials, Mr Khan said though the ministry offered that it would file a summary to request the federal government to amend Section 166, “we do not want any amendment rather Section 166 should be removed all together.”

He said this was a unanimous decision of all schoolteachers and non-teaching staff, adding the education ministry, instead of offering an amendment, should listen to the unanimous voice of teaching and non-teaching staff and move a summary for deletion of the section.

“If the ministry wants, it can do it in a single day,” he added.

On Nov 24, after the approval of the federal cabinet, President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated the Islamabad Local Government Ordinance 2021.

This ordinance, besides explaining other functions of the local government, says in Section 166 that the mayor would be the reporting officer of the director general of the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE).

The FDE regulates all 390 schools of the federal capital and under the ordinance the directorate would be devolved to the local government - a step which is not acceptable to teachers and non-teaching staff, who have been stating that it would be beyond the capacity of the mayor and local government to deal with the FDE as it required an annual budget of around Rs20 billion.

On the other hand, school education is free in Islamabad and the government also provides free books to students.

The protesting teachers fear that in order to meet its expenditure, the local government would ultimately start charging fee, end provision of free books and even privatise institutions. Therefore, schools should remain part of the education ministry, they added.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2021

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