LAHORE: A number of student organisations on Wednesday staged a demonstration demanding restoration of student unions and reduction in fees of all educational institutes in the province.
Activists belonging to the People’s Student Federation (PSF), Progressive Students Collective (PSC), Baloch Council, Pakhtun Council, Seraiki Council, Punjabi Council, Gilgit Baltistan Students and other organisations participated in the demo held at the Charing Cross on The Mall.
The activists were carrying placards and banners inscribed with slogans demanding revival of student unions and reduction in fees.
During the demo, a group of students also performed a skit on different social issues that was lauded by other participants.
The students demands include revival of unions, withdrawal of an affidavit they are asked to sign at the time of admission, pledging to stay away from political activities, free health facility, 50 percent concession in transport fares on student cards and anti-harassment committees with equal membership of female students.
They also demanded release of all the student activists and teachers subjected to forced disappearances all over the country, including Sohail Baloch and Faseeh Baloch, withdrawing Rangers and Frontier Constabulary (FC) from all educational institutes, inclusion of third gender category in admission forms to ensure implementation of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, establishment of universities, including Baba Fareed University in Pakpattan and withdrawal of the recent increase in fees.
They further demanded the reduction in the Higher Education Commission (HEC) budget should be reversed and five percent increase in education budget annually.
They demanded that Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar should fulfill his promise of giving scholarships to the students of FATA and Balochistan and revive 265 seats for the students from these areas in Islamabad.
Addressing the participants, Punjab PSF president Musa Khokhar regretted that many schools and colleges were without basic facilities, including safe drinking water. He lamented that there was no check on the public and private schools, colleges and universities increasing fees arbitrarily and there was no forum where students could raise their issues.
He said though dictator Ziaul Haq had banned the student unions, the successive democratic governments did nothing to undo the ban. “We demand restoration of the student union and need a platform to address our issues,” he said.
Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement leader Ammar Jan said they were struggling against Zia who was still ruling the country. He regretted that all universities were becoming hubs of fundamentalists and extremism was increasing in society.
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2022