Islamabad-Dozens of Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) teachers from all across the country have staged a sit-in at D-Chowk to remind the ruling party his promises made to them before it came in power.  Nazir Ahmed, a middle aged man is restricted by government rules from applying for any government post. However, despite being a ‘private teacher’ he served a government school for nearly fifteen years.  Nazir hails from the hometown of Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan, Mianwali, and remembers all vows made by the PM and the sitting minister for education Shafqat Mehmood to them in the 2011 sit-in at the same venue. “We joined them in 2011 sit-in and they promised to provide us a regular service structure when they will come in power.” Nazir said.

Nazir is also disappointed that hundreds of BECS teachers’ representatives have spent six nights under the open sky, but no official from the ministry of education bothered to visit them and listen to their issues. “In my community school at village Kundiyan 40 children are enrolled, while a total of 80 BEC schools are established in Mianwali and are providing informal education to students till grade five,” said Nazir.

BECS system, now owned by federal ministry of education was initiated in 1995 as a project to provide informal education to the students living in communities where government had not established regular schools.  Under the project around 682000 students are getting education where 12480 teachers from the communities are registered by government as community teachers.  The project initiated with the collaboration of Norwegian government was run with the donation fund awarded by the government of Norway till 2003. After 2003 the project was run with the support of National Education Foundation (NEF) till 2007.  BECS teachers on protest claim that they are performing their duties for the last 24 years and the government hasn’t issued their salaries since last 9 months, and is reluctant in regularizing them in their schools.

Government had fixed Rs8000 salary for each teacher; however they have not been paid since the month of March this year.  The selection of community teachers was done by the committees made at village and union council level by the government. The teachers were hired from the communities looking into their qualifications.  Earlier, the individuals with matriculation qualification were also hired in the initial stages of the project, however now the majority of the teachers have B.A, BED and MED degrees also. Nazir Ahmed said that he has sold his livestock as his income has shrunk and he is under 150000 worth of debt.  “I am a father of three young children and it is difficult to earn bread and butter for my family in this age,” he said. Nazir said that majority of the teachers are under severe financial crises and have to return their loans like him. BECS representatives have held several meetings with the education ministry officials for release of their salaries.

However, till this date the wages are pending. Nazir said that in their first meeting with education minister Shafqat Mehmood, they were surprised to know that the minister was not even aware of BECS. “What is BECS? The minister had asked,” he said.

He said teachers on protest were facing mental and financial stress and the minister was unaware of this government department. Male and female BECS teachers from all provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) are cordoned with barbed wires, police force and containers placed aside. Few female teachers have come on protest along with their children and students and brought their blankets and stoves to stay at D-Chowk till their demands are met by the government.

“We don’t have a single penny to live in this city, philanthropists have started sending us food when our protest was seen on social media,” Nazir said. “Nearly eight of our companions including males and females have fallen ill of pneumonia because of severe cold weather, but still we are not ready to leave this place,” he said.  It is tough to be here, the administration uses different tactics to weaken our protest by switching off the lights at night and pressurizing through police contingents, he said.  “But we overage teachers are afraid of nothing,” he said.  Nazir said that his own children including two daughters and son have studied in the community school and he understands that the protest is causing harm to the academic activity.  “But, government does not understand it,” he said.

Government on the launch of National Education Policy Framework had vowed to enroll above 20million out of school children and claimed that BECS system will be strengthened to educate the children in communities.  But, for the last few months the communities are providing books and stationary to the children enrolled in BECS by themselves as government has not released the grant for the department.

Nazir said that dozens of teaches have reached here with the demand to regularize them which the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had promised to them.  “But I think nothing has changed on grounds and those promises were political in nature,” he said.  Spokesperson Ministry of Federal Education Dr Rafique Tahir talking to The Nation said that the ministry held talks with the representative team of BECS teachers and there was a positive response from both sides.  He said that pending salaries issue will be resolved within a week because the PM and CWP has approved the amount.



ISLAMABAD: Nazir Ahmed, a teacher, now under debt.-Staff photo

ISLAMABAD: BECS teachers stage a sit-in at D-Chowk against the 9-month delay in salaries.-Staff photo