Home Education Students take to roads: protest against online classes, poor internet service

Students take to roads: protest against online classes, poor internet service

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Student’s Solidarity Protest against Poor Internet connectivity & falsified policies of HEC regarding online classes organised by All Baltistan Movement in Skardu.#teamABM

Posted by ABM (All Baltistan Movement) on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Students from GB, Kashmir, ex-Fata districts, Seraiki and Balochistan regions demand suspension of online classes, waiver of fees

Inayat Abdali, Iqbal Salik & Aunil Muntazir


Gilgit/Ghizer/Skardu/Islamabad: Students of mountain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, Kashmir as well as former tribal districts of KP, Seraiki Waseb and Balochistan continue to protest the government’s ill-conceived ill-planned online education policy after the closure of universities and colleges in the wake of the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic.

Frustrated by the poor internet connectivity and frequent electricity outages, the notices from their universities to submit fees, the students marched on the roads to vent their frustration.

Students Organizing Committe District Ghizer

Gahkuch students protest against poor Internet service and online classes policy made by HEC.

Posted by Students Organising Committee District Ghizer on Saturday, June 20, 2020

On Tuesday, a large number of students held protest rallies at Gahkuch in Ghizer District; and Skardu district of Baltistan Division.

The protest demos were organized by Students Organising Committee (SOC), Ghizer, and All Baltistan Movement (ABM).

The protesters marched in the main bazaar chanting slogans against SCom, the internet service provider of the Special Communications Organisation (SCO), the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the government for the anti-poor education policies.

In Gilgit a large number of students under the banner of Students Action Committee marched on the Riverview Road from Chief Minister House and culminated outside Gilgit Press Club chanting slogans and singing revolutionary songs. Muddabir Ali sang Habib Jalib’s famous poem “Aisey Dastoor ko Mein nahi manta”. The protesters demanded revival of Prime Minister Gillani’s package, of fee waiver and closer of online classes, improvement of internet service in GB.

Comrade Mudabbir Ali singing Habib Jalib's poem "Mein nahi manta" at Students Action Committee Gilgit's #StudentsSolidarityProtest against online classes.

Posted by Zahid Ali on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The students were carrying placards and banners inscribed with their demands and against the poor internet service and electricity outages.

At Skardu, the representatives of ABM and other political activists addressed a press conference at a local press club demanding the suspension of the online classes, exams and provision of better internet service and facilities in mountain areas.

Earlier they had gathered in front of Skardu Press Club and raised slogans against SCom’s poor internet service in GB.

ABM president Sharif Akhonzada addressed the protesters and said that GB students had been suffering due to poor internet connectivity.

He said universities were issuing notices to students to submit their fees and described it unjust as universities are off and students were not using campus facilities.

He said that SCom has created its monopoly in GB and do not allow other networks to operate in the region.

PPP spokesperson Najaf Ali said that the army instead of improving the internet service is busy in grabbing public collective land in Skardu and constructing road without any compensation.

He demanded the high-ups of the army and FCNA commander to take notice of this illegal act.

He demanded that qualified professional telecom engineers should be deputed in SCom to facilitate the people.

Another ABM activist Kamran Wazir demanded the government to cancel online classes and refund the fees of the students.

At Gahkuch, Students Organizing Committee (SOC) Ghizer organized the protest. The participants marched from DC Chowk to Sessions Court holding placards inscribed with demands such as “SCOM’s faulty service unacceptable”, “Ensure 3G and 4G service”, “HEC policy unacceptable”, “stop charging fees”. They returned back to the Chowk where protesters chanted vociferous slogans against SCO and HEC.

Addressing the protesters, SOC activist Shafqat Ali elaborated the three main demands: first, SCO should immediately start 3G and 4G services in the region; second, HEC must stop harassment of students in the name of online classes until a 3G and 4G services are made available in GB; and waive of fees till the coronavirus crisis is over.

There is no justification for charging fees when classes are not taking place and students are not using the campus facilities, he said.

Addressing the protesters, SOC members Jahangir Babar and Anzar Uzair and Mushfiq warned that until the three demands are met, they will remain on the streets as the students are united and can go to any length for their rights.

They said the HEC and SCom are making the students suffer in the name of online classes.

They demanded that other telecom service providers should also be allowed to operate in the region.

Arif Jan, a member of SOC from Yasin and social worker Maqsad Shah asked the KIU administration to restore fee waiver scheme for masters, M.Phil students.

Mr Shah lauded the struggle of the students for the solution of their problems and said that people from all walks of life should join the protest as better internet service is a problem of all.

Inayat Abdali invited all student organizations to join the SOC to push for their demands forcefully.

Earlier on Monday, a protest march was held in Ishkoman against the poor internet service and online classes. Organized by Ishkoman Youth, a large number of students from various universities, colleges and civil society participated in the protest march. They were holding placards and marched from Mominabad to Faizabad Bazaar and chanted slogans against the SCO.

PTI Ghizer District Information Secretary Atif Salman while addressing the protesters said that the HEC has started fleecing the students in the name of online classes.

Mr Salman demanded from the high-ups of the FCNA that 4G internet should be provided in Ishkoman.

Political worker Ali Rehmat also lamented the poor internet service and the anti-student policy of HEC.

Mr Rehmat threatened to expand the protest if the SCom did not improve the speed of the internet.

In their speeches, students and civil society members also came down heavily on the SCOM saying poor internet service has caused the severe mental anguish to students.

They demanded provision of 4G service in Ishkoman and warned that they would chalk out next course of action together with the Ghizer Youth Committee and join other organizations in Ghizer and all over Gilgit-Baltistan if their demands were not met. The protest ended in Faizabad main Bazaar.

In Islamabad, various progressive political and students organizations held a protest demo outside National Press Club to express solidarity with the students of GB, Balochistan, AJK and tribal districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

عوامی ورکرز پارٹی پنجاب کے صدر عمار رشید نے اسلام آباد پریس کلب کے سامنے ہونے والے مظاہرے میں پروگریسیو سٹوڈنٹس فیڈریشن، بلوچ سٹوڈنٹس الائنس اورریوولوشنری سٹوڈنٹس فرنٹ کے ممبران کے ساتھ اظہار یکجہتی کی۔ مظاہرے سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے انھوں نے کہا: "ہم ایچ ایسی سے یہ فوری مطالبہ کرتے ہیں کہ جب تک پاکستان کے ہر ضلع میں ہر نوجوان کو، ہر طالب علم کو آپ انٹرنیٹ کی سہولت فراہم نہیں کر سکتے جو ان کا بنیادی حق ہے، تب تک آپ ان کو آن لائن کلاسز کے ذریعے تعلیم کے حق سے محروم نہیں کر سکتے۔ ساتھ ساتھ ہم یہ بھی مطالبہ کرتے ہیں کہ ابھی آپ کی یونیورسٹیاں بند ہیں، تعلیمی ادارے بند ہیں، طلبہ کیمپس کی سہولیات نہیں استعمال کر رہے، طلبہ آپ کی لائبریریاں نہیں استعمال کر رہے، آپ کے کلاس روم نہیں استعمال کر رہے تو آپ کس منہ سے طلبہ سے ہزاروں لاکھوں فیسیں وصول کر رہے ہیں۔ ہم مطالبہ کرتے ہیں کہ فوری طور پہ فیسوں کی کمی کی جائے اور ایچ ای سی سے مطالبہ کرتے ہیں کہ ان تمام علاقوں کا رخ کرے اور وہاں جا کے حالات دیکھے۔ فاٹا، بلوچستان، کشمیر، گلگت بلتستان، پنجاب، سرائیکی وسیب، سندھ کے تمام علاقوں میں ہر نسل اور ہر طبقے کے طالب علم کو تعلیمی حقوق دینے کی غرض سے میں تمام ٹیلی کام کمپنیوں کو نا کہ صرف ایس سی او کو اجازت دی جائے کہ وہ اپنی سروس بحال کریں۔"

Posted by PRSF Islamabad-Rawalpindi on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Awami Workers Party Punjab President Ammar Rashid expressed solidarity with members of Progressive Students Federation (PrSF), Baloch Students Alliance (BSA) and Revolutionary Students Front (RSF).

Addressing the protesters, he said: “We urge the HEC to ensure that as long as you do not provide internet access to every student in every district of Pakistan, which is their basic right, until then you can’t deprive them of their right to education through online classes.”

He also said that the universities are closed now, students are not using campus facilities, like libraries, classrooms. He questioned how the universities are charging students millions of rupees?

He demanded the HEC to immediately reduce fees to ensure educational rights to students of every race, class and gender in all areas of Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, former tribal districts, Seraiki Waseeb, Sindh and rural Punjab.

Mr Rashid also demanded that all telecom companies should be allowed to operate in GB, AJK and former Fata regions, not just the SCO.

The speakers the occasion demanded the immediate suspension of online classes and exams, allocation of funds for digital infrastructure of the education system, and promotion of students to next semester.

PrSF Islamabad-Rawalpindi President Aunil Muntazir, while addressing the protesters emphasized the need for alternative modes of education during the global pandemic which has indiscriminately affected lives across the globe. Our state infrastructure exclusively benefits the people of well to do economic backgrounds while neglecting the students hailing from marginalized segments of our society, he added.

He said, Government and HEC need to take concrete measures to expand internet access and availability in areas where it has been blocked for ages, we ask why high-speed internet is being blocked in Balochistan, ex-Fata and GB and Kashmir? It is critical to ending this digital apartheid under the pretext of ‘national security’.

In a statement the organizations demanded allocation of resources to expand 3g/4g in these areas, allowing other telecom companies to operate internet services there, and provide tablets/phones and internet facility centres to students on a need basis.

They also demanded the HEC to stop its policy of enforcing the online education system, as the online infrastructure is almost non-existent.

BSA member Beevarg Baloch highlighted the historical negligence of State towards the Baloch nation. A long era of oppression of the State has paralyzed the whole provincial infrastructure. The scarcity of basic necessities like education is exponentially growing on one hand. On the other hand, students who make it to public/private educational institutions of the country are now faced with another challenge.

Posted by Progressive Students Collective on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

He demanded the government to immediately suspend online classes until the internet and tech gadgets are provided to all the students.

RSF member Asif Rashid elaborated the issues students are faced with in border areas like Kashmir. He said that students have to travel for miles to find a stable internet connection.

He demanded that HEC must take students on board while making critical decisions concerning the future of students.

In Lahore, Progressive Students Collective also organised a protest demo in solidarity with the students of GB, Kashmir, ex-Fata areas and Balochistan.

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