Universities’ teachers strike
As per the decision of General Body meeting of Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), the teachers in all public sector universities have started token strike of two hours on daily basis. The reasons for the protest include financial crisis of the universities, gross violation of Model Universities Act in the appointment Vice Chancellors by the provincial government and ban on recruitment of much needed faculty.
The decision makers had all along ignored the impotent role of knowledge economy in nation building and economic prosperity despite the spectacular gains that have been achieved by natural resources deficient small South Asian countries in the post 1970 decades, nick named as Asian Tigers. These countries liberally invested in the promotion of higher education. The UNESCO report of 2016 reveals that Pakistan spends 2.49 percent of the GDP on education. Bulk of the expenditure goes to school education. It trails behind from most of the developing countries in spending on education as GDP percentage. Sri Lanka has excelled Pakistan with 3.48 percent spending on education in terms of GDP percentage, Rwanda 3.54 percent, Gambia 3.09 percent, smallest country Bhutan 6.8 percent and Malaysia 4.83 percent.
Before the politically motivated devolution of higher education to provinces under 18th Amendment, public sector universities received reasonable amounts of grants from Higher Education Commission. The transfer of the subject of higher education to federating units proved a disservice to the people by making the acquisition of higher education unaffordable for the students of poor and middle class families. It paved the way for political interference in the affairs of public sector universities, which are autonomous bodies.
The financial problem of government universities is not a recent phenomenon. It is the cumulative effect of past 8 years. In the Senate meetings successive governors had told the Vice Chancellors that universities should raise their own finances and do not look up to government for assistance. Is this stance compatible to the day-in and day-out tall claims of political leadership about their keenness of promoting quality education at affordable cost? Is abdicating the national responsibility of social sector spending by the government justified? The Prime Minister has emphasised the promotion of higher education. But Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government policy is detrimental to achieve this goal. Public sector universities are deficient in teaching staff and the managements are compelled to hire visiting faculty for teaching the students. The decision about the ban on recruitment must be withdrawn and financial crisis of these institutions be overcome with sufficient government funding.