Hunza News

Day five: Despite hardships, protesting teachers refuse to give in

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GILGIT:The ongoing sit-in of community teachers outside the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly (G-B) is taking a toll on protestors. A number of women have fainted over the past few days.

HunzaNews May 11th, 2014.

More than 50 teachers, comprising mostly women, began their protest on Tuesday expressing their frustration with the government’s failure to regularise their schools operating under the Social Action Programme (SAP).  They demand the same salaries as government instructors. Protestors claim they have not been paid for one year.

G-B’s education department set up community schools under SAP in 1994 with the promise to regularise them and bring them under the department within three years, provided their performance was satisfactory.

For the cause

Majority of the participants have left their families and travelled all the way from remote areas like Hunza-Nagar, Baltistan, Diamer and Ghizer.

Many women brought their children along, as there was no one at home to look after them.

“This experience has been the worst we have faced in our entire lives,” said Zawar Fida Hussain, an elderly man who accompanied his daughter – an SAP teacher – and his grandchildren to support the protest. They travelled from Bar Valley of Hunza-Nagar district, about 80 kilometres from Gilgit.

He said two women fainted on Thursday after female police officers slapped them for attempting to enter the G-B Assembly.  At least two dozen police officers have been deployed at the protest camp in front of the building, to maintain the law and order situation.

“On Friday, three more women fainted from exhaustion. Fortunately, they recovered after being provided first aid at a nearby hospital,” Hussain said.

Despite these hardships, the disgruntled group has made it clear it will not give in until its demands are met. On Wednesday, lawmakers were forced to negotiate with protesters who had blocked people from leaving the premises, and it looked like the group was appeased. However, the next day demonstrators, including students, returned in higher numbers, carrying tents to spend the night if necessary.

“It’s been one year since we have received salaries, as meagre as they are,” said one teacher on Saturday. She claims she is paid Rs4,000 a month. “Tell me this is not injustice, especially for those who have dedicated their lives to education,” she added.

Spirit of hospitality

Locals on Saturday made food arrangements for exhausted protesters, who had entered the fifth consecutive day of their sit in.

“It is our moral responsibility to be hospitable, as a majority of protesters are women with children,” said Haroon, who was involved in distributing food.

Recognising the determination and resilience of protesting teachers, political parties as well as Awami Action Committee have extended their support.

“We have taken up the issue and I am hopeful there will be a solution soon,” said Information Minister Sadia Danish.

During Thursday’s assembly session, lawmakers who took part in the negotiations a day earlier discussed the demands of the group. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) legislator Fida Nashad said they have agreed to adjust teachers who meet the required criteria after they take a test and are interviewed. The deputy speaker asked the relevant assembly members to come up with a speedy solution and make recommendations to the chief minister.

At least 1,465 teachers are employed at these community schools across G-B, where up to 55,000 students are enrolled.

Express Tribune

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