Teachers organise against privatisation in the Punjab (Pakistan)

The teachers of the Punjab (Pakistan) are on the move against Musharraf's privatisation of the schools and the educational institutions. Report by Abubakar, October 20, 2003, in Lahore.

The teachers of the Punjab (Pakistan) are on the move against the privatisation of the schools and the educational institutions. The present Musharraf regime has introduced measures to privatise the school system. According to this the schools will be privatised and handed over to NGOs which will run the schools with the powers of dismissal, removal and terminations and also with cuts in the salaries of the teachers.

On October 10, 2003 all the teachers’ unions of the Punjab, including the Senior Staff Association, Headmasters’ Association and the Punjab Teachers Association, held their meeting at the Nasir Bagh Islamia High School, after forming an alliance called the "Mutahida Mahaz-e-Asatza" (United Teachers’ Front). Teachers in large numbers participated in the meeting from all over the Punjab. A large number of female teachers were also present at the meeting. The teachers were carrying banners and placards. They were chanting slogans against the NGOs and the planned privatisation.

At 11am sharp the central leadership reached the venue. At the start of the meeting, the press secretary of the United Teachers’ Front, comrade Shokat Kathiya, read out his revolutionary poem. The president of the Punjab Teachers’ Association, Jameel Ahmad, said the NGOs could only take over the schools “over our dead bodies”. He went on to say that, “We will sacrifice our lives but we will not allow the NGOs to take over the Schools.” The secretary General of the Senior Staff Association of the Punjab, Taukeer Butt, warned the government that if it allows the NGOs to take control of the schools it will find itself in deep trouble.

The president of the United Teachers’ Front, Raja Zafeer Ahmad Satee, said that by privatising the schools and by giving them to the NGOs, the government is going to make a big mistake. “The policies of the IMF and World Bank are being thrust upon us, and this is going to cause great harm to the workers and working class at large. No body can dismiss us from the jobs. And if any body takes any action in this regard history will repeat itself and all the teachers of the Punjab will come out onto the streets. We will block the roads and will go for a compete strike and the ruling class will not find any secure place for themselves.” He gave the present government a deadline of October 22 and said that if our demands are not fulfilled, on October 23 we will block the whole of Lahore city and organise big demonstration.

Many other teachers addressed the meeting including Rasheed Ahmad Bhatti, Farkhra Butt, Syed Jeevan Shah, Khizar Hayat, and Comrade Ahamd Nawaz Watoo, Advocate. On this occasion many workers and trade unions also assured the United Teachers’ Front that they would fight against privatisation of the schools by standing shoulder to shoulder with the teachers.