It's time Student Unions are revived and reinstated

Karachi, July 2(The News): A majority of teachers and students share the view that it is time student unions are revived and reinstated, in order to fill the vacuum created after the unilateral and politically motivated decision was undertaken to ban them some 23 odd years back.

A large number of teachers in the university, who were once members of the student unions in their heydays, feel nostalgic. They fondly recall memories of their student days, when the unions were active and worked for the cause of the students. They inculcated discipline and a sense of responsibility in the office bearers and students.

The union office was a place where the President, General Secretary, and their cabinet, managed the affairs of the students in a professional manner. Universities and other educational institutions allocated budget for the unions that was used by the office bearers without any interference from the university administration. The union would organise a student week annually that was eagerly awaited by students and the staff of the university. Even people not associated with the university, took interest in their programmes. The whole week was devoted to a variety of programmes that included mushairas, student courts, debate competitions, book-fairs, and many other events.

Prof. Pirzada Qasim, Vice Chancellor of the University of Karachi (KU), while talking to us said, "Yes, the unions played a positive role in the university. I vividly remember the days when student leaders were responsible people and acted like thorough gentlemen, who knew their duty towards their fellow students and teachers. But the scenario changed when other elements not suitable for this high-profile trade took the main stage. They were the cause of the demise of the unions".

When asked about his view regarding the revival of the unions, he agreed, that it would be great to experience them again. "Yes, it could be done if the student leaders behave in a responsible manner. It could be a great idea, as the student community needs such leaders to handle their affairs," he elaborated.

Dr Mansoor Ahmed, former Chairman, Department of Pharmacognosy, KU, firmly believes in the advantages of student unions. "I am a strong supporter of such unions. They trained students during the time they studied in the university. People forget that with education, training the students in mannerisms, their character building and grooming is equally essential. These are vital elements that should not be neglected," he said emphatically. Dr Ahmed also added that new students needed to be facilitated when they enter the university. They are usually on the receiving end of everything in the absence of unions.

Dr Tahir Masood, Former Chairman of the Department of Mass Communication who was affiliated with the student union during his student days, is also in favour of the student union's revival. "I vividly remember the days when students were managing their own affairs in a dignified manner. The union encouraged students to be academically strong as well as good human beings and they were trained to be useful citizens once they left the university.

Many students' parties in the university vied for the coveted seats of the student union. On rare occasions, one witnessed a scuffle break out among the students belonging to different parties but that was never prolonged. I think the situation has worsened after the ban on the student unions", Dr Masood said candidly.

Hina Muneer, an Honours student from the Department of General History of KU said, that she had not seen the days when the unions existed in the university but feels that it should be revived. "My father also studied in the university and he tells me about the good old days, when administration officials could not take the students lightly. But that is no longer the case now. Whenever I have some paper work and have to visit the administration building or have to deal with the staff, I feel that they are not performing their duties well. They are impolite and sometimes simply awful. We need unions to safeguard our interests and our dignity," she emphasised.

Additionally, Nighat Rizvi, an M.A. final year student at the Department of Political Science share Hina's views. "I feel that we need a student union to give us a sense of identity and safety in the university. I detest the behaviour of the university staff which is known for giving scant respect to the students unless somebody goes to them with some connections. It is not acceptable at all. It is our constitutional right and we want it to be given back to us", she said frankly.



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