We will come back if demands not met
School teachers ended on Monday their three-day sit-in at the Punjab Assembly in respect of Ramazan. Hundreds of teachers along with their families and children continue to protest against the privatisation of schools in scorching heat. Many teachers fainted during the sit-in. Finally, the government formed committee to negotiate with protesting teachers. After negotiations with government representatives, leaders of All teachers Alliance announced to end the sit-in till Eid.
Punjab All Teachers’ Alliance President Sufi Ramzan Inqalabi told Dawn even though the Punjab School Education Department refused to accept their demands, in respect of Ramazan they had decided to halt their protest till Eid.
He said the education department officials took a plea that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was in London and in his absence they could not commit anything, except the formation of a committee to look into their demands.
“We want the government to issue a notification regarding stopping handing over the public schools to the the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) and teachers upgradation. If the government does not do so we will be back on roads after Eid,” Mr Inqalabi said.
Last month, the Punjab government signed an agreement with another faction of teachers union led by Sajjad Kazmi when they organised sit-in at the mall road and agreed not to hand over public schools having 20 or more students enrollment to the PEF and NGOs. Schoolteachers’ upgradation was also promised besides promotion of PSTs, ESTs and SSTs into grade 14, 16 and 17, respectively. But so far no notification in this regard has been issued.
It is unfortunate that both groups are fighting for the same cause but organised separate sit-ins. The government is using this split to play divide and rule. If the teachers union wanted to defeat the privatisation of school than it must organise a united struggle throughout the province. The union should involve parents and general public in the campaign. The teachers need a mass campaign to defeat privatisation of schools. It is clear that government is determined to carry out the planned privatisation of schools. The sit-in or small protest in Lahore or elsewhere will not force the government to change its policy. It needs mass movement and a solid strike to defeat this anti masses policy.
In the first phase, the department last month handed over 1,000 primary schools to NGOs that will run them in collaboration with the PEF. In the second phase, some 5,000 public schools would be privatised under public-private partnership.