Teachers boycott primary exams in nine Punjab districts

LAHORE, May 26(Daily Times): Schoolteachers boycotted the primary (class 5) examination in some districts of Punjab on Friday, the first day of the exams. Dozens of teachers were also arrested on the charge of disrupting the smooth conduction of the exam.

The consortium of various teachers' associations, the Muttahida Mahaz Asataza (MMA), had announced earlier in the week that the teachers would boycott the primary exam to register their protest against their several "unheard demands", including the non-issuance of the special Teaching Allowance that teachers in other provinces are receiving and the denationalisation of a large number of educational institutions in the province. Education Minister Mian Imran Masood said that according to the information he had received, the exam could not be conducted in nine out of the province's 35 districts. He said that 6,592 exam centres had been set in the province and the exam could not be held in 592 centres. He said the government had assured the protesting teachers on several occasions that their genuine demands would be accepted. He said strict action would be taken against the teachers involved in the exam's disruption.

Special Secretary (schools) Capt (r) Zahid Saeed said that according to the reports he had received, the teachers had disrupted the exam in Gujranwala, Gujrat, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Sargodha, Mianwali and some parts of Faisalabad. He said teachers belonging to various teachers' associations had not allowed students to sit in the exam and in several parts of the province they had made announcements that the exams had been postponed. He said some students did not go to the exam centres because they had believed in the announcement.

Saeed said the Education Department had also received reports that the exam had started after some delay in some parts of Lahore, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rawalpindi. However, he added, the students were given extra time in those centres. He said that more than 50,000 students could not take the examination because of the protesting schoolteachers.

Saeed said further that according to initial reports, dozens of teachers had been arrested in various parts of the province. He said that the department was planning to deal with the people disrupting the exams more 'aggressively'. He said the exams would be held according to the schedule, adding that the exam would be reorganised on May 30 or 31 in the districts where the exam could not take place.

MMA Lahore Chapter chairman Allah Dad Malik said that schoolteachers had expressed complete solidarity against the government over its "anti-teacher policies". He said that in some districts where teachers had not performed their duties at the exam centres, peons, security guards and clerical staff of the schools had 'supervised' the exam. He said the exam's first day had been successfully boycotted and the second day (today) would also be boycotted.

He said the arrests could not dampen the teachers' determination to boycott the exams, rather, the arrests provided more strength to their movement. He said the committee formed by the government to address teachers' grievances was "a mere eyewash", adding that the government was not sincere in solving teachers' problems.

According to a press statement issued by the MMA, the exam had not taken place in eight districts of the province. It stated that seven teachers from Rawalpindi, 15 from Sargodha, 25 from Mandi Bahauddin, 17 from Malikwal, 10 from Faisalabad and two from Pakpattan had been arrested.

The exam of two subjects - Science and Islamiat (Ethics for Non-Muslim students) are scheduled to be held on the second day of exam today (Saturday).

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