ISLAMABAD: Expressing concerns over the closure of public schools in Islamabad, the Senate Standing Committee on Federal Education on Tuesday formed a committee to submit a report within 15 days.

On the other hand, the protesting teachers continued boycotting classes for the last over a week.

Around 200,000 students, who already faced educational loss during the Covid-19 pandemic, are sitting at home as teaching and non-teaching staff under the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) are on a strike against the federal government’s decision of placing the schools under the local government.

The Senate standing committee headed by Senator Irfan Siddiqui took up the issue at a meeting and after hearing the view points of the protesting teachers formed the committee headed by Parliamentary Secretary Education Wajiha Akram.

The committee, however, urged the protesting teachers to call off the strike.

But the teaching and non-teaching staff decided to continue the strike until the government revokes section 166 of the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Ordinance 2021.

Protesting teachers say strike to continue till decision to place schools under local govt withdrawn

The teachers are of the view that placing the FDE and its schools under the local government would be an injustice with the education sector as the local government has no capacity to deal with the sector which requires around Rs20 billion budget annually.

Last week, the teachers staged a massive protest outside Parliament House. The protesters expressed the fear that in future the local government could privatise the education sector besides charging tuition fee. Currently, education is free in all schools while the government also provides free textbooks to the students.

Senator Irfan Siddiqui urged representatives of the Federal Government Education Joint Action Committee to take into consideration the future of the students affected by the strike and resume duties.

The representatives of the action committee informed the committee that the issue had arisen in the wake of the promulgation of the ordinance which under its section 166 envisaged placing educational institutions under the Municipal Corporation of Islamabad (MCI).

They expressed concerns over the ambiguity in their pays and promotion as well as the possible revocation of their status of federal government employees. They said better policies were needed to promote education in the country which was not possible under an administrative unit.

They also expressed concerns regarding funding, which according to them, had always been an issue in the MCI.

Senator Siddiqui remarked that apparently there was absolutely no urgency or emergency to promulgate an ordinance and create chaos. He said hundreds of students, already enduring loss of study time due to the Covid-19 restrictions, continued to suffer due to the teachers’ strike that entered its 9th day.

Members of the committee, despite being divided over the pros and cons of the matter, agreed that a committee should be formulated to review the matter in detail and address the issues of the stakeholders.

Senator Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Senator Fawzia Arshad and Senator Mehr Taj Roghani said despite being a step in the positive direction all-out efforts must be made to address the teachers’ concerns.

Senator Rukhsana Zuberi said this was a negative measure which will seriously hit the education system in the capital.

The committee while discussing details of the Single National Curriculum stressed the need for clarity of concepts and ideas. The need to review textbook content and ensure removal of typographical errors was emphasised. Inclusion of alternative institutions of learning such as madressahs was also stressed.

The committee showed concerns regarding credentials of authors and their selection criteria. The head of the committee said the matter must be discussed in more detail in the next meeting.

It was recommended that Rafiq Tahir, who headed the National Curriculum Council previously, be invited to the next meeting for more clarity on the subject.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2021

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