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Underpaid teachers: Community schoolteachers protest for their rights outside G-B Assembly

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GILGIT: More than a dozen teachers, mostly women, working at schools operating under the Social Action Programme (SAP) staged a sit-in outside the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Assembly on Tuesday, demanding their institutions be regularised.

HunzaNews May 7th, 2014.

“We are exhausted of this struggle,” said Gulam Akbar, the president of SAP Teachers Association.

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

Almost two decades later, the system continues and at least 1,465 SAP teachers continue to earn a pittance compared to their public school counterparts. One protester said he earned a salary of Rs4,000 a month.

“They should simply let us go, through an initiative like the ‘golden handshake’,” he complained. “It would be better if the government relieved us of our duties than continue to underpay us, added the protester.

It is not a matter of poor performance or enrolment, explained Akbar. The government needs only to look at the SAP schools’ annual reports, compiled by the education department, to see there were 55,000 students enrolled across G-B and academic performance is satisfactory, he claimed.

SAP teachers believe regularising schools and bringing faculty under the government’s official pay structure is not as daunting as it may seem. Even though many of these schools are located in remote valleys, they have their own buildings and are already equipped with furniture. Furthermore, G-B’s SAP schools have a collective endowment fund of up to Rs75 million, which they have collected over the years.

Akbar added a proposal for regularising the service of teachers was forwarded to the Ministry of Finance through the regional government in 2012 but due to a lack of interest on part of the G-B government, it did not gain traction.

An official from the G-B Chief Minister’s Secretariat said Rs234 million is required annually to adjust SAP teachers into a permanent setup but the regional government lacks the financial resources to meet this expense.

The demonstration continued outside the assembly throughout the day but lawmakers managed to avoid protestors by driving away in their cars.

Express Tribune

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