Everything You Need to Know About the Student Solidarity March
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Student Solidarity march is set to be held on 29th November at Charring Cross Lahore. Here is everything you need to know about it.
We all have seen the girl in the black leather jacket, chanting a poem “Sarfaroshi ki tamanah ab hamare dil mein hai“. This has been going viral since Monday and not a lot of people are sure about what she is asking for. This chant happened at a peaceful protest at Faiz International Festival. Most people are calling it an excuse for liberal students to make some noise. Little do they know that students participating in this march have some valid demands.
What is Student Solidarity March?
This March is being organized by the Progressive Students Collective (PSC). This organization was set up by the students themselves to protect their rights. The formal march is going to happen on November 29th. The demonstration at Faiz Festival where Arooj Aurangzeb chanted the rebellious poem, was to spread the word about the March.
PSC has invited students from all the institutions across Pakistan to come and stand up for their rights.
While some students have been photographed with banners with symbols of communism, the March has so far been preventing a somewhat confused charter if you go by the photographs.
However, Progressive Students Collective’s set of demands include problems we have all faced in student life and continue to face.
Wondering what ‘rights’ PSC is talking about? Well, these students will be marching for:
1. Rectification of the Current Education Crisis
It is not news that Pakistan is going through a major Education Crisis. This has been going for a very long time and it is being ignored by the government. Tuition fees are rising every day and the quality of education is constantly going down. Nobody cares about the mental health of the students which is being caused by the current competitive educational environment.
Schools are privatized which means quality education is overly expensive and out of reach of a common man. The elite class sends their students to foreign universities because they are aware of the low-quality education being offered in Pakistan. The major companies prefer international graduates over Pakistani students. Students from humble households do not have access to a good education. The same goes for books and standard stationery and employment opportunities.
Curriculum announced by the government is outdated and does not cover the updated scientific knowledge that a student needs to become a functional part of society. The March calls for improving the educational standards so that the kids from poor families could have as much access to good education as rich kids have.
2. Political Rights
In Pakistan, students are not allowed to form unions and this Student Solidarity March is trying to fix that.
Students have played a significant role in the history of Pakstan. From the Pakistan Movement to fight against dictatorships, students through their organizations and unions have achieved quite a lot. The student unions were banned by General Zia-ul-Haq back in 1984 because according to him these groups instigated violence. Even though Benazir Bhutto removed the ban in 1989, this is still being practiced. Universities expel or suspend students for taking part in political activities.
Meanwhile, extremist student organizations are allowed to roam free and beat people on campuses of Punjabi universities. Such organizations have the backing of political groups, and even the university administrations are helpless in front of them.
Students need representation in the decision-making process so that their issues could be properly dealt with. Right now due to the lack of representation, their voices and concerns are not being heard and it is becoming harder and harder for everyone to successfully pursue their education.
3. Prevent Harassment
Every student has a story or two where he or she was harassed by someone on in their educational institution. It could be a professor, principal, T.A or even a random clerk handling their sensitive information. Women, in particular, are being exploited in educational institutions across Pakistan. There has been an incident recently where women in Balochistan University were being blackmailed through their secret CCTV footage.
Apart from sexual harassment, there have been many cases of teachers using physical violence as a tool for discipline. This is not only against Pakistani law but also ethically wrong. Steps need to be taken to ensure students are not harassed, beaten, or mentally tortured by their educational institutes.
4. Better Infrastructure and Degrees
These students are demanding the government to provide adequate infrastructure with the institutions. Government institutions at all levels are in the need of serious reconditioning. The courses are outdated, the staff incompetent and labs do not have the proper machinery and building are worn out. In 2011 a student died in UET boys hostels because an old wall collapsed on him. Recently a female student lost her life by falling from a newly-built campus.
Many institutions are unaffiliated and they still enroll students and then do not give them degrees. These institutions should be affiliated or closed down. The students who are enrolled in programs should either be transferred or given degrees. They have spent considerable time and money, and the government should ensure they get something in return for their hard work.
5. Equality and Safety
Students from minority ethnic groups such as Pakhtoons and Baloch are discriminated against by their teachers and the administration of the institutes in Punjab. As the biggest province, Punjab has much better educational facilities than smaller provinces. As a result, many students from far-off regions apply to universities in Lahore or Rawalpindi.
In Punjab, they are labeled as terrorists and are treated as prime suspects every time there is a disruption in the institute. According to students, there have also been incidents of Pakhtoon or Baloch students being arrested without proof.
Student Solidarity March calls for better treatment and a safe environment for their minority class fellows along with an increase in quota for students from smaller provinces.
If you find these demands a valid representation of what you believe in, don’t forget to join the Student Solidarity March on 29th November 2019 at Charing Cross Lahore.