Ernest Dempsey - Freedom in the educational arena has become a testing ground for governments around the world. In Pakistan new decisions reflect how educators and governmental entities are sometimes at odds, but freedom of work and expression in education is becoming a powerful force.
The University of Peshawar Ordinance 2011 has been officially approved this past week, resulting in the victory of the university’s teachers against the earlier legal act that had left them robbed of their say in the governance and decision-making processes of the institution, revealing how Pakistan's professionals have joined the wave of world protest for freedom of work and expression in decision making policies.
In December 2010, a bill approving amendments to University of Peshawar Act, 1974, landed on the campus directly from the governor house, like a despotic monster, throwing the university’s faculties in a near-shock state. The new amendments meant kicking out faculty members from the university’s syndicate and senate when it came to the decision-making process. In other words, by a single order, over which no debate had been invited post-approval by the then governor of the province, the university’s administration usurped all the powers of decision-making to its own offices. It was time for the teachers to raise a voice of protest. And that they did.
The Peshawar University Teachers Association (PUTA) voiced protest against the admin-serving amendment bill, making the provincial government reconsider the bill’s approval. The Chief Minister of the province Amir Haider Khan Hoti constituted a review committee to discuss the issue and present its suggestions. The committee, comprising PUTA members and high official from the Ministries of Information and Education, reviewed the bill and submitted its findings and suggestions to the government, leading to the University of Peshawar Ordinance 2011.
The ordinance was signed by the Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province Masood Kausar, the chancellor of the university, endorsed the ordinance and the ordinance’s approval was officially notified on Friday, June 10, 2011. For the university teachers, the notification of this ordinance signifies victory of the democratic approach in governance of the institution. Now the most important decisions, regarding appointments, promotions, university rules, and other affairs, won’t just rest with the administrative office. Teachers of the institution will be an integral part of the governing bodies of the university.
Since the democratic government of Pakistan came in power over 3 years ago, a number of important decisions have been made to devolving powers to relevant institutions and departments instead of letting it play in the hands of a central authority. Devolving federal ministries to provinces has been one good example of this democratic process. It was pivotal for the sake of justice and fairness that important decisions regarding the quality of education in educational institutions not be given in the hands of a high official who, at his/her own discretion, may abuse the authority and the University of Peshawar Ordinance 2011 is the latest living example of the victory of democracy over a centralist/authoritative mindset.