Protesting Students Want Suspended Lecturers Reinstated
KABUL (PAN): Nearly 1,000 Kabul University students on Tuesday protested against the removal of the social science department head and a lecturer by the Ministry of Higher Education.
The students gathered in front of the Kabul University around 9am and then began their march toward the parliament building, where they asked the higher education ministry to reverse its decision. They warned of continued protests if their demand was not considered.
The student rally comes a day after lawmakers and ministers visited dozens of students of the same faculty observing a hunger strike since last week.
The ethnic Hazara students ended their eight-day hunger strike after their demands including the removal of the social science faculty head, Abdullah Farooq, and lecturer Faisal Amin, were endorsed.
The hunger strikers said they were subjected to harassment and prejudicial grading by university staff. They also called for the replacement of outdated teaching materials, a new library, and reliable Internet connections.
Higher education minister Obaidullah Obaid suspended the faculty’s dean and the lecturer in response to the protesters’ demands.
But a parliamentary commission said a day after it had reviewed university documents and found the students’ claims of unfair grading were false.
The hunger strike was called off after Obaid, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, advisor to president on national security, Naimatullah Shahrani, another presidential advisor held talks with the protesting students. The officials brought with them documents showing the two lecturers had been suspended.
To condemn the suspension orders, more than one thousand students staged a protest, asking the higher education ministry to cancel the orders with immediate effect, saying the decision was not acceptable to them and the two lecturers should continue their job.
“The president has issued the orders to please some groups around him and he took the decision under pressure from these groups and he should reverse his decision,” a protesting student, Mursal, said.
The students chanted slogans like “we want justice” and “we are against discrimination” and the “new presidential decision is unacceptable.”
Later, nearly 100 lecturers joined the protesters, saying they were against all sorts of racism, linguistic and sectarian differences on the campus.
“We want educational justice in Afghanistan. We support education free of any kind of racism and differences about languages and sects and we are against interference in educational affairs from outside,” one of the female lectures, Aneesa Mahmud Omar, said.
The lecturers asked the parliament to respond to their demands, otherwise they would continue their protests and would boycott attending classes.
Some lawmakers who visited the protesting students and lecturers promised to convoy their demands to the president.
The suspended social sciences faculty dean, Farooq, rejected all allegations against him as part of a conspiracy against some lecturers.
“We, the lecturers of Kabul University, call for damage suit against people who accused us of immoral behavior and discrimination,” he said.
The embattled professor said those involved in leveling false accusations against lecturers should be expelled from the university and those who provoked students for the protest should be punished.
Another removed lecturer, Amin, who the protesting students accused of moral corruption, said he would defend himself against the allegations, saying his removal was a one-sided decision.
He warned lecturers across the country would stage protests if the issue was not thoroughly investigated.
However, a spokesman of the Higher Education Ministry, Abdul Azim Noorbakh said the ministry had decided to appoint Farooq on a better position.
About Amin, he said he could not teach to students protesting against him, but could give lecture to students of other classes in the faculty.
A day earlier, around 500 students staged a protest, saying the students on fast were acting at the behest of outsiders.
They chanted slogans in favour of the university staff and asked the government and parliament not to listen to hunger strikers’ demands.
“The students on strike do not represent the entire faculty, they want to reach their specific goals by acting on the directives they receive from outside,” one of the protesters, Abdul Ahad, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
He said the striking students wanted to earn a bad name to the prestigious university and disrupt education environment on the campus.
In Mazar-i-Sharif, provincial council members and Balkh University students held a gathering, lending their weight behind students on hunger strike in Kabul.
Nearly 200 students took part in the gathering that began at 9am at the office of provincial council.
Speaking on behalf of Balkh university students, Mohammad Fidakar, told Pajhwok Afghan News they supported every demand aimed at bringing about positive reforms to Kabul University.