Temporary teaching arrangements find favour with Karachi University
Karachi, Feb 06: The state of hundreds of teachers employed as full- or part-time cooperative teachers at Karachi University provides an insight into a cause of the deterioration in educational standards at one of the country's leading universities.
The ad-hoc teaching arrangements, which in many cases remain in place for up to 10 years, and the long delays in the constitution of selection boards for new teachers have not only bred disappointment amongst the current group of cooperative teachers, but also encouraged nepotism and deprived academia of the talented people who could have emerged through a transparent and competitive selection process, it was learnt.
There are currently 587 cooperative teachers at the university, as compared to just 421 regular teachers. The number of budgeted posts is 705.
Of the total number of cooperative teachers, 303 work part-time, while 284 are at KU full-time. These numbers exclude the department of visual studies, which has been running entirely with the help of visiting faculty and cooperative teachers for the past 10 years.
Teachers rejected, but retained
While many faculty members doubt the credibility of the selection board, there are several cases in which cooperative teachers rejected by the selection board still continue to serve the university.
"Can anyone in the KU administration tell [us] why so many teachers rejected by the selection board are still working? If cooperative teachers are capable they should be made part of the regular faculty, but if they fail to pass the selection board's criteria there is no justification for keeping them with low salaries and no benefits for years," said a cooperative teacher at the biotechnology department who was rejected by the selection board in 2006.
The teacher in question, however, continued to work in the department until this year, when he left to join a small private firm.
"The [new] job is nothing but a compromise I forced myself into. It has nothing do to with research, which is my passion. I chose it only because I had become fed up with the pressures I was facing all the time at KU. It's hard, if not impossible, to give your 100 per cent under constant pressure and [in a] disrespectful environment," he said.
A number of cooperative teachers vented their frustration at their job status, saying it had prevented them from utilising their full potential at work. "Being a teacher in the very same department where you were once a student does give you a sense of fulfilment initially, but that starts ebbing away when you realise that you have no voice and no rights," said a serving cooperative teacher.
Looked down upon as "outcasts", contractual teachers say they have to face many pressures from senior teachers and are deprived of any rights and benefits, despite working shoulder-to-shoulder with the permanent faculty. "In fact, we do more [than them]. Why? Because we can't say 'no' to any senior teachers. We have to keep them happy, especially the chairman, to make space for ourselves in the department," said a cooperative teacher.
The Karachi University code does not recognise the status of cooperative teachers, although it does mention that a selection board should be constituted as soon as there are vacant posts available, and that these posts should be advertised in newspapers. However, this doesn't happen in practice and the institution of a selection board for newcomers is often delayed, sometimes for years. The result is an increasing number of cooperative teachers.
'Huge loss to the nation,
"The ad-hoc teaching arrangement suits the interests of the university administration," said a member of KU's regular faculty. "There is no lack of people desperate for jobs and willing to work at low salaries. Some use it as an opportunity to get better jobs or some leave out of frustration. But it's a huge loss for the nation and for the students when research-oriented teachers, delivering their best [efforts], depart."
The cooperative teachers' major concerns include a lack of recognition and respect for their services at the official level, low salaries, delays in the institution of selection boards (and the low credibility of these boards), short periods (six months) for the renewal of their contracts and the absence of a forum for the representation and resolution of their problems.
Also, cooperative teachers are not eligible to represent the university at any event. If they take any sort of leave, their salaries are cut accordingly. They are also not entitled to memberships of the teachers' society or staff club.
Members of the regular faculty allege that the appointment of cooperative teachers in such large numbers over the years has also encouraged favouritism.
"The vacancy for a cooperative teacher is advertised through a notice in the department, which means it [the post] is accessible only to a limited number of candidates. The procedure is not transparent and the department chairman has the final say, though two senior teachers are also part of the team. That has led to nepotism and there are examples in which close relatives of teachers and chairpersons were appointed," a teacher said.
He added that the university administration had no reason to delay appointments of lecturers and assistant professors as there was no ban on appointments and the administration did not require the recommendations of foreign referees for these appointments, as is the case for associate professor and full professor positions. The contractual system, he believed, was in vogue for years, and long delays in the constitution of selection boards had blocked access to the university for capable teachers.
Situation 'difficult to believe'
Upon contact, KU's top officials were unwilling to speak on the record, while the vice chancellor couldn't be contacted. The officials cited financial reasons as the major cause of delays in appointments.
Dr Shahana Urooj, dean of the faculty of science, said: "It is difficult to believe that so many cooperative teachers are working at the university. I feel that if a cooperative teacher continues for more than one semester, it means the university needs him or her and they should be appointed through the selection board. There is an urgent need for faculty extension, especially after the introduction of BS, MS and PhD programmes."
When asked why cooperative teachers are deprived of memberships of the Karachi University Teachers' Society (KUTS) and the staff club, Dr Aqeel Ahmed, president of KUTS, said that the society's constitution prohibited such inclusions. "The society is only for regular teachers. But, yes, it's their right to set up a representative forum on their own. They would get all the privileges once they are selected through the selection board."
About the regularisation of contractual teachers, he said that KUTS had raised the issue many times, but the administration had given no positive response. He also rejected the impression of nepotism in the hiring of cooperative teachers.
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Kidnappers target schoolchildren
Karachi: The Karachi police have been directed to mount a watch outside schools to check the rising trend of kidnapping of schoolchildren, it was learnt.
In the first month of 2009, three cases of kidnapping for ransom of schoolchildren were reported. A total of seven kidnapping cases were reported in January.
Aged between 10 and 12, the three children were kidnapped either while they were going to or coming from schools, sources said.
Two such cases were reported in Gulistan-i-Jauhar and the third case was reported in the Darakhshan police jurisdiction.
However, officials said that in all the three cases the victims returned home safe and sound after their parents paid 'nominal' ransom amounts in what has been described as "short-term kidnappings".
Law-enforcement officials believe that one gang was involved in the three kidnapping cases who negotiated and settled for amounts as low as Rs70,000.
It was observed that this gang did not prolong a kidnapping episode and liked to settle the ransom amount as soon as possible, a law-enforcement official said.
"We have identified the gang and are close to apprehending the suspects," said Citizens-Police Liaison Committee chief Sharfuddin Memon.
The remaining four cases of kidnapping for ransom are being worked on by law-enforcement agencies, he said.
Capital City Police Officer Waseem Ahmed said that the parents of two kidnap victims were senior executives of industrial units, said to be instrumental in workforce retrenchment in the recent past.
Investigators suspect retrenchments may somehow be linked to the kidnappings as the laid-off workforce belonged to a political party.
A comparative analysis of the kidnapping-for-ransom figures in the first month of the last two years shows that in January 2007 five cases were reported and in January 2008 four similar cases were reported.
Similarly, a total of 69 kidnap-for-ransom cases were reported in 2007 and 92 cases in 2008.
Satish Anand kidnap
The kidnap-for-ransom case of film distributor Satish Anand is still unresolved. He was kidnapped in October last year by unidentified persons in the Frere police limits. A law-enforcement official said it was not necessary that all kidnap-for-ransom cases, particularly the 'short-term' ones, were reported to the police.
In some cases people prefer not to prolong their ordeal by going to police stations and instead pay their way out of the short-term kidnappings.
Mr Memon was keen to point out that undocumented subscriber's identity modules (SIMs) were still being used in the kidnap-for-ransom business, which puts a question mark over the claims that a huge number of such SIMs have been blocked by the authorities.
In all the seven kidnapping cases reported in January 2009, undocumented SIMs were used by kidnappers to demand ransoms.
"We need technological support to combat this crime effectively," the CPLC chief observed.
"The situation is grimmer in the interior of Sindh, where kidnapping for ransom has again surged alarmingly in the recent months," said an official.
Kidnapping for ransom seems to have become a business involving short-term risks and having immediate results in the form of ransom. And irrespective of their backgrounds, criminal elements are increasingly stepping into the business.
Generally, the victim is killed when someone from the family is the kidnapper or the victim identifies his or her kidnappers. Dawn
RSU to start development of government schools
Karachi: The Sindh government has released an amount of around Rs 95 million for the provision of missing facilities at all public schools of Karachi.
"The released amount is part of the financial assistance being provided by the World Bank (WB) and the European Union (EU) to the provincial government," Sindh Education Department officials said. They said that the released funds will be used to provide lacking amenities in state-run schools of the city, which were pointed out by the Sindh Reforms Support Unit (RSU).
The work on facility provision will be undertaken by RSU's School Rehabilitation Program (SRP), which primarily aims at providing necessary resources to remove constraints affecting enrolment and dropout rates at all levels, especially the primary level. "All other foreign donors, including the European Commission, are also expected to pool in their resources for this program, as well as provide technical assistance," added the officials. The amount will be spent for ensuring proper building cover at shelter-less schools, additional classrooms and providing missing facilities including electricity, water, toilets and boundary walls at government schools.
There are 3,762 government schools in Karachi, including 1,312 boys' schools and 1,207 girls' schools. According to officials, as many as 106 schools are closed, while 3,656 schools are functional. In terms of facilities, as many as 1,515 schools are without electricity, 863 schools are without toilets, 1,329 are without drinking water and 801 schools do not have boundary walls.
The amount has been transferred to the concerned departments, so that they can start providing facilities to the schools as soon as possible, the officials added. It may be pointed out that RSU was given funds during the last fiscal year to start the uplift project of schools but they failed to provide missing facilities to these institutions.
However, the officials were hopeful that this time the job will be completed, unlike last year. Daily Times
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