No student unions despite stimulus law
The Sindh government’s decision to lift the ban on student unions, which came about four months ago, has given hope to students in the province who have longed for representation for four decades.
They believed the landmark legislation would help undo some of the damage done over the forty years student federations have been forced to stay out of the picture, while shaping the future of student leadership.
However, the subsequent lack of implementation of said legislation appears to have been a wake-up call for the province’s student body which pinned its hopes on the reformed law.
Due to this, various student issues, such as unfair hike in tuition fees, lack of facilities like transportation, boarding schools, and drinking water, in addition to harassment cases and anti-terrorism FIRs filed by intuitions against protesting students, began to accumulate again. no way out for the reprieve.
The Sindh Student Union Bill 2019, passed unanimously in February 2022, aimed to revive student unions banned in 1984 under the rule of military dictator General Ziaul Haq. Setting a deadline for implementation, the bill maintained that “every educational institution shall, within two months of this Act, formulate regulations and procedure for the conduct of the union.” The words, while affirmative, made little sense, given that the government has failed to finalize the rules and universities have yet to implement the law.
Key features of the law, however, indicated that student unions would be revived to promote an environment conducive to social interaction and the exchange of ideas and with restrictions on violence and gun culture in educational institutions. “There must be a student union in every educational institution made up of bona fide students. It will consist of seven to eleven members elected by the students of the particular educational institution,” the law said adding that “the educational institution conducts student union elections every year and it must have at least one candidate of the elected student. union in its union, senate council with a harassment protection committee, which must be gender balanced and have a representative from the student union.
Sindh Youth Action Committee Chairman Sindhoo Nawaz Ghanghro, who has lobbied on students and youth issues, called the issue “slow work” on the implementation of an extraordinary law. “The government is getting a lukewarm response to solving student problems,” she said. Giving the background to the law, she went on to say that the provincial government originally sprang into action in 2008 and promised to pass a law when students across Sindh staged sit-ins demanding the revival of trade unions. Then he went silent for 11 years. “After huge struggles and protests from students and civil society, the provincial government consulted with us, together with university vice-chancellors and other stakeholders, to finalize the bill in 2019. Later, it took the government three years to pass the law,” she said. expressed his dismay that the implementation of the law calls for a new series of struggles and protests, “without which there will be no tangible results”.
Student issues will only be resolved by their representatives in the unions, whether it’s fee issues, hostel accommodation or harassment. In the current scenario, teachers and other university staff responsible for wrongdoing are asked to solve their problems, which is unfair,” Ghanghro said.
Zeeshan Mangrio, who is studying economics at Shah Abdul Latif University in Khairpur Mir, said they started the protest when the university administration suddenly increased the annual accommodation fee from Rs 7,000 to Rs 14,000. “We referred to the rules and asked them to improve it by 5-10% but all went to no avail,” he said, adding that there are about 12,000 students enrolled in college and that they reduced the transportation buses from 43 to just 23 to choose from. and drop off the students. “Students living in the city of Khairpur, Pano Aqil, Sukkur and Pir Jo Goth have been waiting for the points for hours but no one pays attention to us. Students, especially girls, are forced to sleep in courtyards and on the open roof of hostels. It forces us to protest,” he said, adding that the university administration not only threatened them for demanding what is their right, but also registered FIRs against many students.
Similarly, protests by medical students at Ghulam Mohammad Mahar Medical College in Sukkur also made headlines last month, when the university administration threatened and harassed female students for their protest over lack of transport. and other basic facilities. “We parents have also joined the protest against the admiration of universities for their failure to provide basic facilities,” said a retired professor whose daughter is a medical student. “Instead of solving the problems, the vice-chancellor started harassing and threatening the girls. This angered us and we joined the mass protest. The entire district administration, including the contacted commissioner, came forward and a committee was formed to investigate the matter. Let’s see what happens now,” he added.
Despite numerous attempts to reach the Chief Minister’s Advisor on Councils and Universities for comment on the matter, contact could not be made. However, the department spokesperson said some problems have arisen at the university level due to lack of resources. “Some students protested at the University of Sindh against the 30% increase in admission fees, but this issue has now been resolved as the fees have been waived,” he commented.
Regarding the implementation of the Student Unions Act, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla said that the government is committed to reviving student unions, adding that the implementation of it will start soon. . “The rules are being finalized. After that, the law will go into effect across the province,” he told The Express Tribune.
Published in L’Express Tribune, June 18e2022.