One of the notable out the many theories regarding Germany not bombing Oxford during the WWII was allegedly the secret pact between the two enemies agreeing not to bomb two universities each on both sides. This may not be based on well-founded evidence and might also be speculative but it reflects the desire to preserve education -- even in post-war situation.
Universities create knowledge and knowledge creates awareness, which gives you a sense of purpose and this ultimately differentiates 'living' from substance or survival. The story of higher education in Pakistan and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in particular, however, is both confusing and disappointing. Beginning from the recent past, the 18th amendment left the fate of higher education hanging in the balance. This despite the fact that the spirit of the 18th amendment is devolution of education sector in its entirety. But due to reasons best known to the mover and shakers, no concerted effort was done by the provincial government by engaging the main stakeholders in resolving the issue. By now just like all other provincial units, a provincial HEC could have been established with budgetary allocations. But not in KP. The federal government slashed the HEC by almost half from around 114 Billion rupees to 64 billion which was bound to bring about disastrous constraints on the universities' abilities to shoulder their financial burden.
Universities are expected by the present government to bear their own expenses. Most universities in public sector generate their finances through admission and examinations fees which have already been increased. Any further increase will take higher education beyond the ordinary citizens' ability to afford. In absence of any vibrant industry such linkages too cannot wholly be relied upon as sustainable source. KP's universities have been disowned by the government.
To resolve this issue, the provincial government, in spirit of the 18th amendment, should immediately form its own HEC and pledge a permanent budgetary allocation.
A proposal vide official letter by the KP Finance department was shared with higher education department with suggestions for implementation by the universities. Both the letters are in violation of universities' autonomy granted by the Model Universities Act 2016 (Amend.). Just like the letters the contents therein, the form of suggestions were also in violation of not just only the principle act constituting universities but the higher law of the land.
To place employees in less advantageous position both financially and in terms of their employment status that too without their consent is both unethical and illegal. Being autonomous entities, universities have their own governing bodies which also have representations from various departments of the provincial government. This has been one of the many reasons behind the ongoing protest by universities employees.
The university employees from lower grads to professor are on protest since many months now. However, owning to the deafening silence and undemocratic streak of the provincial government, they have resorted to sit ins in support of their legitimate demands. On June 1, the professors and other university employees decided to peacefully march towards the KP assembly in scorching heat all midday. They were allowed to cover around 10 km distance before the government without any positive engagement sprung upon peaceful protesters leaving many professors injured and some arrested.
Worth watching was the scene when policemen mostly ex-students were running after their teachers. The incinerating remarks by the provincial spokesperson Kamran Bangash added insult to injury when he compared universities with corporate organisations with profitability in terms of money alone. He forgot to acknowledge his existence being the product of some university besides millions earning all that they can for their own and the society.
The protestors also demand the removal of the Vice chancellors who preferred to side with the provincial government in their illegitimate endeavour. The protest is sucking more air day by day. Before it is late, sanity demand productive and sincere engagement.
Now the demands has more after the police crackdown including the removal of those involved in the manhandling of the professors.