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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 390, 20 October 2022

Teachers’ Protest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: A brief background, causes, and dilemmas



Why do protests continue even after negotiations and proposals of law in favor of the teachers in KP province?

Joel Jacob

On 6 October 2022, police arrested dozens of schoolteachers after a baton-charge and tear gas firing to disperse the rally demanding upgradation of their pay scales and restoration of allowances. Protesting against the police’s action, the Primary School Teachers’ Association, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, announced the closure of all government primary schools in the province and the teachers closed around 15,000 government primary schools across the province on the day to join the Peshawar rally. Thousands of teachers showed up outside the KP Assembly and blocked Khyber Road.

Teachers’ protest: A brief background
School teachers’ protests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been regularly happening since July 2022 over multiple grievances and issues. One of the primary demands is that primary schoolteachers should be recruited to basic pay scale of 14 rather than 12. The schoolteachers demanded upgrading their pay scales and the immediate withdrawal of pension reforms insisting those reforms significantly reduced payments after retirement.

President of the All Primary Schools Teachers Association (APSTA) Azizullah Khan said: “On the pretext of pension reforms, the provincial government has cut down several allowances from the pension, which we were previously entitled to.” The provincial government also had cut down several allowances from teachers’ pensions to which they were entitled to. The collective voices of teachers’ associations set up protest demands to the authorities if their demands are not met. In this case, the association has set up the protest in the right place which is the premises of the KP assembly. Instead of engaging in a negotiation, the authorities employed a high-handed approach to browbeat the protesting teachers. The teachers’ body had been trying to reach a settlement with the provincial authorities but they were in no mood to negotiate or even listen to their demands. The police baton charged the protesters in the most ferocious way.

On 12 October 2022, the Peshawar High Court expressed displeasure over the frequent blocking of Khyber Road near the Assembly building by protesters. Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim observed that holding a peaceful protest was the right of every citizen, but at the same time rights of other people could not be violated by causing inconvenience to them by keeping roads blocked for many hours.
 
Continuing dilemmas
In June 2022, the teachers’ association staged a protest in front of Imran Khan’s residence in Islamabad for the regularization of their jobs. The teachers who were protesting in the capital, when asked why they were not protesting in KP feared the heavy-handedness of the KP police working with the provincial PTI government. The feared thing happened after four months that they were mishandled and arrested for seeking their demands from the govt.

The teachers, who have been employed at various KP educational institutions on an ad hoc basis, want to be treated in the same manner as regular government employees. Before the talks failed, former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry assured the protesters that their demands will be fulfilled, but no action was taken and was asked to hold a protest in Peshawar. The teachers claimed that they have been terminated for protesting but they are determined to continue to protest till their demands are met and a notification is issued.

On 19 June, the cabinet approved the proposed law for the regularization of around 58,000 ad hoc schoolteachers hired in the province during the last five years. The development comes following a sit-in by thousands of those teachers, but the proposal was only on paper; the protestors have argued that the government has failed to implement the agreement it made with them. The association has been demanding that the teachers be given seniority from the date of appointment and pension instead of a CP fund. They have also been asking for the reinstatement of all dismissed employees of the Young Teachers Association.

The teachers who protested for the second consecutive day in October were arrested among which 13 of their leaders were booked for rioting attempts to murder and other offences. The schoolteachers staged a day-long protest near the assembly building, and the APSTA president said the teachers held talks with the government’s representatives, who promised the early resolution of their issues. Azizullah further said: “We’d reservations as the government’s commitments were verbal and not written,” the authorities were reluctant to sign an agreement with teachers on the latter’s demands. “After discussion with our district presidents, we the association have decided to continue with the Jinnah Park sit-in.” The APTA leader said no progress was seen on the demand for the release of teachers. The protesting teachers of KP refused to negotiate with the government until the release of their leaders.

The Secretary and director of education reached the Education Department to hold negotiations with the protesting teachers, but the teachers denied to negotiate with them. The protesting teachers said that the provincial government had promised a change but failed to address their problems despite repeated assurances in the past three years. They demanded that the education minister and chief minister should come for negotiations instead. They also demanded the release of the Primary School Teachers’ Association’s president before holding talks.

The protest has not reached anywhere. Unlike in the past when they have given verbal assurance of the demands, the situation of releasing the teachers and the government not adhering to the demands of the teachers makes the condition worse. The education system in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is in a critical condition with the future of children, as thousands of teachers who shape the society are manhandled on the roads and are disrespected for asking for their basic needs.

References
KP cabinet okays bill to regularise 58,000 ad hoc teachers,” Dawn, 29 June 2022
Pakistan: KP teachers protest outside Imran Khan’s house, seek regularisation of jobs,” The Print, 20 June 2022
PHC summons admin, police officers over road blockades by protesters,” Dawn, 12 October 2022
 

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