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AKESP teachers Strike in Chitral -letter


AKESP is the second largest education service provider followed by government sector in district Chitral. For the last more than two decades of its presence in Chitral it has served the most impoverished district in terms of providing access to the education in every nook and corner of Chitral and offering employment to more than 500 people. Majority of them are serving in the schools in various remote areas. The zeal and enthusiasm of teachers are enviable and unimaginable. Despite being with difficult circumstances and financial constraint these teachers have such a love and passion for their job that is not possible to explain in words.


For a brief period of time, I also had an opportunity to serve in the Aga Khan Education Service as a teacher in one of the premier institution in Chitral. This time I found an opportunity to observe the institution very closely. During this brief stay it is dawned on me that there is a wide gap between policy and practice of this organization. My own decision of joining the AKESP was owing to some unavoidable circumstances with my government job and expecting to be a part of this dynamic institution of which I envisioned during a visit to the same institution in Gilgit five years back. I found very strong hierarchical service structure here with no fixed service rule for the employees especially teachers. Furthermore, it is heartening to know that teachers are recruited according to their choice of salary. The less paid person they find the better is the choice.

 

On the contrary, other institutions, working in parallel with AKESP, even the private sector, follow strict service rules and provide their employees with full benefits in salaries and also adjust them according to the market and with proportion to price hike. Second important thing which I noted is that the said institution claim to be decentralized institution. The claims that teachers are fully autonomous and have complete freedom for decision making and influencing it, remained only a dream for me.

 

All the policy matters regarding teaching and learning and other institutional matters are dictated from the people sitting at the top of the hierarchy and strictly advised to follow. I also found that all the power lies with the central office. Rests of the people only act as a dancer to the tune of the people at the central office. A head teacher with the condition of anonymity, told the writer that they were even not free to buy a ball point of Rs. 10 of which they had to fill a requisition which costs more than the price of the single ball point. This story reminds me another amusing story, analogous to it, which is often told by the doctors. They say that to drink a cup of tea one needs more calories than the amount present in the ingredient of tea itself.


With the rise of Aga Khan Schools during 1980s and other institutions, under the banner of AKDN, a number of well educated Chitrali Youths were highly attracted by the lucrative jobs in AKDN. It was the time everybody wanted to join these institutions. Many others, who then worked in very lucrative position in different government organization, also took AKDN especially AKESP, AKHRS, and AKRSP as the first priority. Still many young people joined these NGOs while at the same time permanently resigning from their position. It was a time when these organizations offered many benefits with high salaries as compared to other institutions. There was a frustration among the government employees during the period when AKESP was offering amount double the number to their employees.


The miserable time started with the price hike in the country. Teachers who earned five to seven thousands rupees in 1980s find it difficult to meet the end. The salary packages remained same with no annual increase. No increase in the salaries shifts the frustration from government employees to the AKEPS teachers. Now, the AKESP teachers only lived with their hope of better tomorrow. No one asked them and cared about them. Even at this time their performance was commendable in terms of teaching and enhancing the women literacy rate in the most remote district.


In 2004 many teacher staged protest against the decision. Following the interferences from the local and regional leadership the situation was settled with big promises of resolving the issue within no time. However, after passing six long years the teacher saw no hope again. Now they have started strike against the same decision. No classes are taught in the schools. In this way the future of many students is becoming bleak.
It is not understandable to any one, perhaps the people at the helm of affairs also, why no proper decision are taken in this direction and why not the salaries of the teachers being adjusted according to the market prices. It seems that the officials in the management of AKESP are ignorant of any decision.


Teachers are the central player in the teaching and learning process. No educational organization can flourish without satisfying the teachers in terms of their physical, psychological and emotional needs. Enhancing the financial status of teacher is the first priority. Secondly, the image of the said organization is being badly tarnished and the people are hesitant to join the AKESP. Those who are still working in the system are looking for other jobs.


If necessary actions are not taken to tackle the issue more then more people will leave for other jobs. This brain drain will make the issue more grave. --Z.A.Zulfi, Booni, 09 Sept 10

 

 

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