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Punjab students' protest | UET convocation

Punjab students', teachers' protest

Lahore, Dec 14: Wednesday's raid by students and teachers on the Punjab Assembly sent out different messages to different people. To those who measure general security on the basis of the security available to our lawmakers, the charge was a shocker. How could the police allow a smallish group to penetrate the safety cordon and come close to striking at the lawmakers? To another set of observers, though, the most remarkable aspect to the episode was the violence with which the police eventually blocked the protesters. The protesters were also not averse to a fistfight or two or to burning down a few vehicles, but the police action most certainly betrayed the guilt of a force that had reacted late and which then over-compensated for the delay in typically brutal manner.

The protest conveyed at least one more message, and loudly. This demonstration against autonomy to 26 select Punjab coll- eges was an out and out Jamaat-i-Islami show. Islami Jamiat Tulaba, the students' body allied with the Jamaat, was the only one allowed to prosper while a ban was long placed on student unions and they are the only ones visibly upset with the changes unfolding in the educational system in the province now. These changes are far too many involving, for instance, controversial decisions such as a shift from the current two-year bachelors' programme to a four-year BA honours degree. We haven't quite heard what non-Jamaatis have to say on the subject simply because such an entity doesn't formally exist on the campuses. The promise of revival of the students union Prime Minister Gilani had made in his inaugural speech in March 2008 is still unfulfilled. Consequently, there are no organisations around to either join the IJT in this quest or to oppose it. Their opposition to or support of the IJT here could have helped greatly in rationalising the issue and in seeing it as a real problem of the students at large. In the event, the current protest against autonomy for colleges is liable to be seen as a campaign by a body that shuns any and all changes on the campus by an administration it is not fond of.

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Torture of teachers: CJ orders case against accused policemen
Lahore: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry ordered on Monday registration of a case against the policemen involved in assault on teachers/professors during their protest outside the Punjab Assembly building a few days back.

The chief justice issued the direction when he was shown a newspaper photograph wherein the policemen were torturing a teacher.

The court also allowed the owner of a private bus, burnt by students, to be a party in the suo motu case.

The chief justice also summoned all stakeholders on Tuesday (today) to settle a dispute between the government and the Professors and Lecturers Association on the issue of the proposed introduction of boards of governor (BoGs) in educational institutions of the province.

He also directed the PLA president and other office-bearers to submit a written statement clarifying as to why teachers took students to the Punjab Assembly where they ransacked the public and private property.

The chief justice also summoned the Punjab education secretary to explain the matter in depth that caused unrest among teachers on the BoGs issue.

Earlier, DIG (operations) Rao Sardar submitted his report about the incident. Additional advocate general (AAG) Hanif Khatana read aloud the report which said that neither the IGP nor any other high official, including the DIG, had ordered torture on students despite the fact that they forcibly entered the assembly gate and broke security desks.

The policemen and security guards took the action against students and teachers only to ensure security on the premises which could not be compromised in any case, he said.

Arguing on behalf of the Punjab government, the AAG told court the teachers had used students for their vested interests.

He alleged that since most of teachers were running private colleges and academies they feared that BoGs could stop them running such private institutions/academies.

To a query, he said there was no loss to students because the government had no plan to privatise colleges or raise fee.

When the counsel for the PLA asked the AAG whether he could give undertaking for not increasing students' fee, he (AAG) said he needed to take instructions from the government in this connection.

The PLA president through his counsel assured the court that he would also submit his written reply on Tuesday (today).

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UET convocation: Unpopular decisions in national interest: Gilani
Lahore: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Saturday the government was taking unpopular decisions to take the country forward.

Speaking at the 19th convocation of the University of Engineering and Technology, Gilani underscored the need to take on the challenges and earn a respectable position in the comity of nations.

Saying that successive governments failed to strengthen institutions, he claimed the present dispensation's governance strategies including devolution would strengthen the federation. He said this year had been declared "Education Year" and he had dedicated most of his time to education and health sectors.

He lauded the UET for enhancing students' enrolment and imparting quality education to meet the growing needs of the industry. Referring to UET students' volunteer work in the flood-hit areas, Gilani said he would extend full support to the committee constituted by Governor Salmaan Taseer.

Later, the prime minister told reporters that foolproof security would be ensured during Muharram. He said he would again contact Nawaz Sharif before the Reformed General Sales Tax Bill was tabled in parliament.

"Nothing can be said off the cuff," was the premier's remark in reference to privatisation of educational institutions. He said student unions were a provincial subject.

Taseer said nations faced difficult times which help bring out "people's nationalism". He said Pakistan had stood tall against challenges and there was neither any famine nor any disease outbreak.

Felicitating Shamsul Mulk on receiving honorary doctorate degree, the governor said he and Shamsul Mulk share same views on Kalabagh dam.

Earlier, UET Vice-Chancellor Muhammad Akram said the university would confer 39 PhD degrees, 1,064 MSc/MPhil degrees and 4,823 bachelor degrees. He said UET was on top among public-sector engineering universities according to the Higher Education Commission ranking. At the world level, he said, it had been ranked at 281st number.

He said the Rachna College of Engineering and Technology had been upgraded as a university and now its case of charter had been approved by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The prime minister presented PhD degrees to 39 scholars including Associate Professor Masood Ahmad who was honoured posthumously. The late academic's mother received the PhD degree.

He also presented honorary degrees to Shamsul Mulk and Akram Sheikh and awarded gold medals to the position-holders. He inaugurated the newly-constructed auditorium having 2,500 seats.

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Dozens of UET students barred from convocation
Lahore: Dozens of graduates of the University of Engineering & Technology (UET), Lahore on Saturday failed to attend the varsity's 19th Convocation where Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani was the chief guest.

The pass-outs were waiting in queue outside UET Auditorium Complex, having security clearance passes in their hands, when, all of a sudden, the main entrance was closed at the arrival of the premier, leaving the students outside the auditorium.

Around 50-60 graduates, wearing traditional convocation gowns, were seen outside the UET Auditorium Complex, desperately trying to enter the auditorium but to no avail. They kept standing outside the auditorium until the ceremony ended, and no one from PM's security or UET administration bothered to contact them.

Talking to the reporters, the angry engineering graduates said it was unfortunate that they were deprived of attending a precious event of their lives. They said that many of them had come from far flung areas and taken leave from their respective organizations with the sole purpose of attending the convocation.

UETians, including Ayesha, Shahana, M Waqar and Ali, said they were greatly disappointed owing to the treatment meted out to them. They said the convocation was, in fact, a very memorable day in the life of a student, adding it was unfortunate that dozens of graduates had been barred from joining the auspicious occasion just because of the Prime Minister's protocol. 'We are not aliens' Shahana said, 'All of us had security clearance passes provided by the varsity management at the rehearsal'. Waqar said, 'We have seen politicians come very late but they are never barred from the ceremonies.''

Ayesha said that, at least, those having proper security clearance and standing in queues should have been allowed to attend the event.

It is pertinent to mention that the mismanagement was also witnessed inside the auditorium when the convocation ended.

The Prime Minister was still in the auditorium when announcement was made for students and teachers to leave the hall. This created problem for media persons who could not properly talk to the premier. The news

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Rise in out-of-school children in 20 UCs
Lahore: The number of out-of-school children in various union councils in Lahore has risen to an extent that the available public school facilities are simply unable to accommodate and impart them education at primary level.

The enrolment drive conducted by the Jahandad Society for Community Development (JSCD) in collaboration with Unicef as a part of its Young Champions Project for Girls Education in Lahore district's 20 union councils has revealed that the public sector facilities are just unable to accommodate the out-of-school children. Under the project, some 4,000 children were got admitted in schools.

"As public sector schools lack space in many localities, various schools' heads are refusing the Young Champions admission to out-of-school children showing them that there was no space available for new students," said JSCD chairperson Prof Dr Yasmin Raashid while speaking at a media consultation workshop at a local hotel on Monday.

Prof Raashid said the JSCD had selected some 200 Young Champions in all the 20 UCs and trained them to motivate parents to send their children to schools. She said the society also conducted baseline study and found that some 8,906 children were not in schools. Of 5,825 3-10 years of age children, she said, the Young Champions had got admitted some 4,000 children in public schools as well as low-cost private schools by manoeuvring 50 per cent concession in fees within nine months that included unusually long summer vacation this year.

She also told the media persons that a largest Christian community residing in Youhanaabad, Ferozepur Road, had no public sector schools and the number of out-of-school children there was very high. She said the Young Champions, however, consulted the local low-cost private schools and got out-of-school children there on 50 per cent fee. She said the project also provided uniforms, bags, books and even shoes to the new school entrants. She said the Young Champions also helped parents obtain birth certificates from respective UC offices.

She said the Young Champions Project for Girls Education conducted 605 community meetings, 834 monthly meetings with Youth Clubs formed in each union council. The Young Champions also organised sports events and street theatres in schools and communities to educate families about the importance of education and schooling. She said the JSCD also organised two essay writing competitions for students. She said the Young Champions had also established one-room Youth Clubs and imparting vocational training to girls. "The Unicef team has recently inspected the project and was very impressed with the concept of Youth Clubs and assured their support to the clubs for the benefit of the poor citizens' localities," she said.

Stating that many localities had public schools without space for new children, while some areas had no public schools, Prof Raashid said, highly motivated Young Champion Jameela Bibi got admitted some 80 children to two government schools " one each for boys and girls.

Jameela Bibi told the JSCD team that her Young Champions team had motivated parents to the extent that they agreed to send their children to schools despite the fact that they were earning some rupees for the family. "Now parents are themselves bringing their children to my home wishing that their child should also be sent to the school," Jameela said.

This enrolment drive, however, faced a setback when both schools' administration told the Young Champions that they had no more space for any new child to be admitted, she said.

Dr Yasmin Raashid said the whole exercise had brought about a refreshing change in society but it needed to be expanded in all union councils in Lahore as well as in other districts. Dawn

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