KARACHI: The government received a lot of flak at a large gathering of Karachi University (KU) teachers who warned of a massive countrywide movement along with their colleagues in other provinces if the allocated funds were not released to the public-sector universities soon.
During the Karachi University Teachers’ Society (Kuts) general body meeting a unanimous resolution was also passed to abolish the Higher Education Commission which was described by the participants of the meeting as a “white elephant”. They held the commission responsible for all the ills being faced by public-sector universities in the country.
No academic activity was held on the campus on Wednesday in protest which had been planned in accordance with a decision of the All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA).
The forum of Kuts also supported a unanimous call for an unconditional apology from federal finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, also a former KU student and teacher, and former HEC chairperson Shahnaz Wazir Ali — both of whom reportedly had made some uncalled-for comments about the seats of higher learning.
They said that the government was working on the World Bank agenda to privatise educational institutions and deprive the poor and middle class of opportunities of higher education which was the only source of this section of society to improve their living standards.
The teachers, they said, had always sacrificed for the country and would continue to do so, but their hard-earned money was not meant for the luxuries of the government officials who, they said, were bent upon taking foreign tours when the country was facing its worst-ever crisis.
Instead of penalising teachers, the government should tax the rich and the corrupt people and recover billions of rupees that had been written off, they said.
“It’s a black day in the history of Karachi University when teachers have been forced to suspend classes and have gathered in protest. The most unfortunate part of the whole episode is that an elected government which claims to be a proponent of people’s cause has done the gravest harm to the cause of education,” remarked Dr Abid Husnain, president of Kuts.
Dr Husnain linked the government’s refusal to release funds to the issue of verification of degrees and said: “The financial crisis has been going on for almost two years. But, what’s the reason that the universities which attracted a lot of media attention in recent weeks have suddenly been thrown into a deep crisis” he asked.
A number of fiery speeches were made during the meeting amid the calls that the struggle must not be confined to teachers alone and the non-teaching staffs and students should be made part of the movement.
“The government is asking us to raise fees in order to run universities. But, it’s a misconception that the generated amount would be adequate to run a university. If the KU even increases its fees 100 per cent, it would only contribute four per cent to the total university budget,” Dr Shakeel Farooqui, a member of the KU syndicate said.
KU administration faces criticism
The present KU administration also came under fire at the meeting and the teachers held the government, the HEC and the administration equally responsible for the situation.
“Everyone on the campus knows how much the vice chancellor loves education? The university, under him, has been ruined due to large-scale corruption. There are many department chairpersons sitting in this hall who have been trying for over a year to meet the VC. But, he has no time,” claimed Dr Riaz Ahmed of the Applied Chemistry department.
The teachers also criticised the administration’s policy of hiding the earnings of the Evening Programme and said that it was one of the reasons that the government had stopped the funding because they had assumed that universities were making a lot of money on their own.
There was no transparency and no accountability at any level, they said and demanded that a strict financial regime must be introduced on the campus.
Over 400 appointments had been made at the KU over two years while large amounts of money had been spent on useless infrastructures and on the offices of two pro vice chancellors, the participants of the meeting said.
While censuring the HEC, teachers referred to the huge expenditures of the commission. Currently, there were 35 director generals working at the HEC, each of them drawing a salary of over Rs500,000, one of them said.
At the end of the meeting, a walk was held from the arts lobby to the Silver Jubilee gate.
Classes would remain suspended on Thursday at KU from 11am to 1pm, Kuts announced late on Wednesday.