THE protest of the students of Sir Syed Girls College against the transfer of their principal and against the authorities not paying head to their teachers’ demands that had begun the week before prompting a stern response from the Provincial Minister for Education, Dur Mohammad Usto, (highlighted in this column last week) burgeoned into a considerable campaign in a few days involving teachers and students of other institutions as well. The young ones of the aforementioned college had refrained from taking classes and others followed suit. On Nov 21, 1973, as reported in this newspaper, the students’ boycott of classes continued for a second day [on Nov 20]. Earlier in the morning, they went to different schools and colleges in batches urging pupils to stay away from the classes. Many assembled at Sir Syed Girls College to extend support to the students and sympathise with the teachers. The Karachi University Teachers Society, the National Students Federation and the St Joseph’s College Students Union, had extended full support to the protest. While this was happening, the director of colleges, clearly showing which side the government was leaning, asked the college principals to send him the names of the teachers who were not performing their duties.

On Nov 22, the girls boycotted classes for the third day while the students of St Joseph’s College, who were also on strike to protest against the transfer of their three lecturers, wore black arm bands and black dopattas. A meeting was held at the college from where about 50 girls in cars and buses proceeded towards the Sindh Assembly to meet the education minister and other MPAs. They were not allowed to reach the building by the police. Even then, four girls entered the assembly through the gate opposite Tughlaq House and met with education, health and finance ministers, members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Opposition parties. Later, addressing a press conference at the Dow Medical College, the president of the Sir Syed Girls College Students Union told newsmen that a charter of demand had already been sent to the provincial chief minister.

On Nov 24, the teachers of nationalised colleges took out a procession to press for the withdrawal of their transfer and suspension orders. The procession, led by the West Pakistan College Teachers Association (WPCTA) Sindh and Karachi chiefs — Anita Ghulam Ali and M Tahir — began from S M Arts College and passed through Burns Road, Idgah Maidan, Bunder Road and Frere Road. At the Frere Road-Assembly Road intersection, it was not permitted to proceed to the Sindh Assembly.

And on Nov 25, the students of NED Engineering College and the University of Karachi called on the Provincial Education Minister to discuss their problems including admission to the faculty of pharmacy, introduction of M.com classes and an increase in the number of seats at engineering colleges. Mr Usto assured them that their genuine demands would be given ‘sympathetic consideration’. The minister advised the students to call off the strike and attend classes in the ‘larger interest of the country’. He also appealed to the lecturers of the nationalised colleges to resume their duties.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2023

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