ISLAMABAD      -         Scores of students from various educational institutions of the city on Friday held a ‘students march’ and demanded of the government for the restoration of students unions.

The participants were carrying red flags, wearing red caps and holding placards inscribed with slogans of freedom for students gathered outside the press club.

Marchers urged the government to focus on the issues like harassment and intimidation by university administration, rising university fees, crumbling infrastructure and facilities, and the criminalisation of students who speak out against the abuse of this current education system which has brought young people to an impasse.  The protest in the city was organised by student federations including Progressive Students Federation (PrSF), Revolutionary Students Front (RSF), Jammu Kashmir All Students Federation and other student organisations under the banner of the Students Action Committee (SAC).

Student Action Committee organiser Minhaaj-ul-Arfeen said the time has come to free our stifled education system from ageing bureaucrats and their profit making interests.

She said instead of responding to students’ concerns through structural reform, universities have instituted more securitisation, policing of student dissent and rigid moral policing to prevent student interaction and collective action.

“The new government has exacerbated this crisis by slashing the higher education budget,” she remarked.

A representative Rehana Akhtar, said that ban on student unions from the past three decades has stifled collective student action.

Criticising the increasing fees demanded by public and private universities, she urged that free education should be provided till college and the class-based education system should be reformed.

Danish Yaseen viewed that the nature of our education system, based on class and privilege instead of merit and academic excellence was producing professionals unable to find an adequate employment opportunities. “Instead, politics is now dominated by the same capitalist and class-based system that has ruined our educational system,” he said.

Sanagar Ali highlighted the example of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) on how our education system continued to serve the privileged by creating barriers for upcoming professionals by instituting policies.

“To bring about radical social change, a transformation in our education system is necessary and we will not stop until student unions are reinstated,” he said.

Women Democratic representative Shehzadi Hussain said that the students’ education was being compromised for the profiteering of individuals and corporations and robbing people of the education they need to succeed in the future.

She stated that students continue to feel insecure in the campus and their bodies are routinely policed, adding that these measures are meant to oppress students as authorities are fearful of their capacity to transform our political trajectory.

Educationist and political analyst Tahir Malik said that Pakistan’s 50 per cent population is comprised youth and they remained associated with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“But unfortunately our youth’s role is missing from our national politics,” he said.

He said no government of political party has set focus on issues of students who want quality education and ending of unemployment, restoration of students’ political right and hike in student fee.

He remarked that society should come forward and support students.

Student Action Committee Organiser Muneeba Hafeez presented the committee resolution to resounding cheers and slogans of “Zinda hai Talaba, Zinda hai”.

Muneeba Hafeez further stated that the corrupt administrations are engaging in and covering up horrific sexual crimes.

She called for the immediate formation of sexual harassment policy in all higher education institutions, and committees formed to draft these policies to have a 33 per cent quote for student representation.