Islamabad -  Unemployed PhD scholars on Monday gathered outside the personal residence of the Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan to record their protest against the increasing number of unemployment in scholars and victimization policies of the public sector universities. Around one dozen unemployed PhD scholars staged the protest and urged the government to provide jobs on an emergency basis. The PhD scholars gathered at Bani Gala and intercepted the PM’s squad during their protest and torched their degrees symbolically. 

The scholars said that their prolonged unemployment forced them to protest outside the PM’s residence and they will continue their protest until they are provided with jobs.

The protestors criticizing the government’s policies for the education sector said that Pakistan Tehreek –e-Insaf (PTI) is looking away from the promises it made with the educated class.  The protestors also condemned the Higher Education Commission (HEC) role claiming that the regulator has failed in providing employment opportunities to highly qualified individuals. The protestors holding banners and placards against HEC and the public sector universities urged the government to play its role to accommodate unemployed teachers. “Shut down HEC”, “Close admissions in PhD,” the protestors chanted slogans. Dr Sher Afzal representative of the unemployed PhDs said that there are around 786 unemployed PhDs in the country, while HEC and the public sector universities have completely failed in accommodating these teachers.  “There is no permanent policy for PhDs, a large number have foreign qualifications but are unemployed and are looking towards the government to address their miseries,” he said.

He said that they are running from pillar to post from the last five years but their protests have fallen on deaf ears. HEC and the public sector universities both are victimizing the unemployed teachers and they have no plan to solve their problems, he added.  “HEC scholar under Interim Placement of Fresh PhDs (IPFP) is adjusted in the university for one year and after completion of the term, the scholar is shown the door,” he said.  He added that the universities do not advertise the posts and victimize the scholars despite taking their services.  Another scholar Fatima said that she recently became unemployed after her placement in the university ended.

“How will the government accommodate 3000 PhDs if it cannot give a secure future to 700,” she said. She said that universities despite having the vacancies do not advertise the post because they do not want to pay the scholar from its kitty. “They have adopted an easy way of hiring a new scholar for one year after the term of previous one ends because every new scholar brings a new project with him/her,” she said.

She said that a large number of youth invested their time and money for PhD but now they are compelled to sit on roads because of employment.  Later on special assistant to PM Naeem-ul-Haq met with the delegation of the protesting faculty and assured them that their problem will be solved on a priority basis.  He called all the unemployed PhDs with their degrees next week to discuss the current status and possible solution of their problem. The scholars on protest vowed to continue their struggle until they reach a logical conclusion.  Separately, dozens of teachers from Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) also staged protest outside National Press Club (NPC) demanding their unpaid salaries for seven months. BECS is a non-formal education program being run under ministry of federal education and professional training.  According to a rough estimate, above 13000 teachers are providing education to 600000 students in different communities in the country. The program is being run in all provinces especially in the rural areas where formal education schools do not exist. The BECS teachers are hired from the community and the government pays them Rs8000 per month. Shahida, a BECS teacher said that their salaries have not been paid for the last seven months and it has become difficult for them to support their families. “We are living in a hand to mouth situation,” she said.  BECS teachers also said that they have camped outside NPC for the last one week but no serious effort has been made by the government to address their issues.