Student unions - a distant dream?
Karachi, June 17, 2008: Tidings given by the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gillani about
the revival of student unions in the educational institutions have proved to be
a political stunt as both the government and the educational heads are dragging
their feet on the issue.
Meanwhile, the government is engaged in wasting
their time on useless meetings to derail the revival of the student unions. The
fact, as stated by Vice Chancellor (VC) of a university, is "All the vice
chancellors talk publicly about the revival of the unions but secretly they are
all against it".
The government began this exercise in futility with the
formation of the Vice Chancellors committees headed by the VC of the University
of Punjab (PU). The meetings have discussed the possibility, methodology, law
and order situation and general reaction in the educational institutions after
the revival of the unions.
The meetings were always non-starters as the
vice chancellors, most of them, were apprehensive that the revival of the unions
will bring chaos in the universities. A senior professor at the University of
Karachi (KU) commented in this regard, "Vice chancellors and the teachers have
become accustomed to a comfortable life in the campus. They do not have any
moral pangs about the students who are an important part of the university,
without their bodies to defend their rights. It is pathetic and is a form of
One such meeting between the vice chancellors of the Sindh
universities was held on June 7 to establish some modalities for the union. The
vice chancellors had reservations about the Student Union's representation in
the university Syndicate. They also thought that one Faculty Representative (FR)
was enough from a faculty. There used to be three in the past when the unions
were in the universities and managing the students' affairs in an admirable way.
An insider informed that the VC of the University of Balochistan had
the opinion that he did not need any student unions in his
Prof. Pirzada Qasim, VC, KU said that all the vice
chancellors agreed on the points that a new system, pre-conditions, political
atmosphere in the universities should be considered before allowing the revival
of the student unions. "There was apprehension that the bloody situation will
crop up again with the revival of the student unions," Prof. Qasim
The federal government has aggravated the matter by creating a
Tripartite Committee headed by the Federal Secretary Education. The other
members include HEC Executive Director Sohail Naqvi, the Vice Chancellors of PU,
Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), and student delegates from
Balochistan and Peshawar universities.
It may be recalled that the VC of
PU is well known for his animosity towards students and their unions. In the
recent past he closed the university to prevent the holding of a book fair by
the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) and then held the university's own book fair
that failed to attract the students and other book lovers because of
mismanagement and less number of books. The revival of the student unions by
such individuals appears to be a far-fetched possibility.
another point of contention that surprised many. That was the selection of
students of Balochistan and Peshawar universities. "Why from these two
universities?" A final year student from Mass Communication department asked. In
response, Prof. Qasim said, ""It was an order from the Federal
Education Secretary through a notification."
The irony becomes all the
more apparent with the passive and detached attitude of the teachers and their
elected bodies. They, who were supposed to be firmly behind the students, are
least bothered about the revival. For example, the Karachi University Teachers
Society (KUTS) has evaded the show of any moral support for the student unions.
They are pleased with their newly acquired glory and influence while the
students' interests are being ignored.
The trade unions are revived and
even the elections have been held in the industrial units including the Pakistan
Steel Mills Corporation (PSMC). Unfortunately the right of the students is being
denied by the government and the teachers. The News
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City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan
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