ISLAMABAD: After a number of harassment cases in educational institutions in the recent years, a parliamentary committee on Tuesday cleared a bill to pave the way for legislation to protect students from harassment.
The Senate Standing Committee on Federal Education, which met with Senator Engineer Rukhsana Zuberi, cleared the ‘Protection against Harassment of Students in Educational Institutions Bill 2020’.
The mover of the bill, Senator Javed Abbasi, informed the meeting that the bill seeks to ensure provision of education in a safe environment in educational institutions. At present, there is no criminal law to register such cases which causes unnecessary delay in proceedings, he added.
The bill would provide a mechanism to ensure speedy justice.
It said at the school and college level, complaints would be registered with the deputy commissioner and in case of a university the Higher Education Commission (HEC) would receive complaints and forward them to a committee within three days.
Under the bill, the inquiry committee will submit its report within 30 days.
The chairperson of the committee lauded the bill and the efforts that were put in its preparation beyond party lines.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed also supported the bill and said this was the need of the hour.
Senator Mehr Taj Roghani stressed the need for women’s representation in the inquiry committees.
The mover of the bill told Dawn that in the absence of any proper mechanism, students of educational institutions, seminaries and even tuition centres were not safe. He said the bill sought strict criminal proceedings against staffers and teachers found guilty of harassment.
Harassment cases in Balochistan University, Gomal University and several other universities were a matter of concerns for all of us, he said.
Meanwhile, the committee approved the ‘International Islamic University (Amendment) Bill 2020’, which was also moved by Senator Abbasi.
The committee was informed that the bill sought to ensure faculty representation in IIUI decision-making process. The committee was told that laws governing public sector universities made it essential to have representation of teachers in their decision-making bodies.
However, unlike other universities, the IIUI lacks the basic requirement as despite the constant demands of teachers, it has no representation of teachers in the board of governors and senate.
The amendment bill strives to give elected faculty members effective representation in such decision-making syndicates and boards for bringing improvement in functioning of IIUI.
The university was established in 1980 in pursuance to a resolution by Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). But so far, it has no representation of teachers in its decision-making bodies.
During the meeting, IIUI Rector Masoom Yasinzai agreed that the structure followed by the university was different from other universities. He said the IIUI had a board of trustees, comprising rectors of leading Islamic universities of the world.
He said he had recommended for inclusion of teachers in the board in 2017 and with the consent of the board of governors the demand was forwarded to the HEC. After reviewing the document, the HEC should have shared the amendments with the university instead of referring it to the Ministry of Education and then the Senate of Pakistan.
He requested the committee to allow him to refer the document back to the university statutory body before taking a decision on it or else the university will lose “credibility”. The committee while rejecting and ignoring the rector’s arguments passed the bill unanimously.
“After representation of teachers, who directly know issues and requirements of teachers and students in decision making the performance of the university will improve,” the mover told Dawn. He expressed the hope that next week the bill would be passed from Senate before being referred to National Assembly.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2021
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