By Khalid Bhatti 19/05/2016
Some demands met but privatisation will continue
The protesting teachers called off their sit-in and protest at the Chairing Cross in front of the Punjab Assembly at Mall road Lahore after the successful negotiations with Punjab government. The sit-in continued for two days and both male and female teachers defied the scorching heat to press their demands. The protest and sit-in was organised by the Punjab Teachers Union Sajjad Kazmi group. The other groups of teachers union and other associations have rejected the agreement and announced to continue their protests throughout the province.
Some demands of the protesting teachers have been accepted and a high level committee formed to further deliberate on the contentious issues between the union and the government. According to the agreement, Punjab government agreed not to hand over the schools to NGOs and Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) where 20 or more students are enrolled in each class. The government has also agreed to involve the union in the process of handing over of the schools to private sector. The government will consult the union before making any decision in this regard. The government also promised to upgrade the teachers working as PSTs, ESTs and SSTs into grade 14, 16 and 17 respectively. According to the union the government also agreed not to introduce golden hand shake scheme to get rid of present teachers.
The President of Punjab Teachers Union Sajjad Kazmi announced that no teacher will be made redundant in the process of privatisation. We have ended our sit-in and protest movement after reaching an agreement with the government and if the government failed to implement the agreement, we will be back on the roads again.
This sit-in and protest might be over but the issue of privatisation of schools and planned golden hand shake scheme is not over yet. There is wide spread discontent and anger among the teachers against the privatisation of schools. The teachers are not happy the way the government has approached this issue. There is lot of confusion and rumours about this whole plan. The Punjab government in its typical way asked the bureaucracy to prepare the plan without taking into confidence the teachers and their representatives. This is a major policy shift and change and it will affect the hundreds of thousands of teachers and millions of students. But Punjab government adopted top down approach on this issue and decided to impose this policy without discussing it in the cabinet, assembly and in the public. In the first phase, the school education department last month handed over 1,000 primary schools to different NGOs that will run them in collaboration with Punjab Education Foundation. The PEF has finalised handing over the management of around 5,000 schools to private partners. It is feared that thousands of permanent jobs will be lost in the process and thousands of teachers will forced out of their jobs. The future of millions of students belonging to poor families is also at the stake.
But unfortunately the teachers union and other organisations representing the teachers in this largest province of the country stands divided and so far failed to unite on one platform to defeat the privatisation. They are trying to fight the one cause from different platforms and providing the government a chance to play divide and rule policy. It is important for the teachers to form an alliance and launch mass campaign against this anti poor policy. If they failed to unite and launched common policy on this issue, the result is already written on the wall.