Police have baton-charged protesting Early Childhood Education Teachers (ECETs), protesting outside Karachi Press Club for permanent jobs on Wednesday. The teachers were barred to move towards the Chief Minister House to convey their complaints and demands and several were arrested, including five female teachers.

Earlier last month, the Early Childhood Education Teachers (ECETs) from different parts of the province held a sit-in camp outside the KPC and announced to observe hunger strike till their demands were  met.

The protesting teachers’ body, the ECET-Ittihad Sindh, said: “During the past 24 days, not a single representative of the Sindh government and the School Education Department bothered to visit the sit-in camp and listen to the grievances of teachers. This is why the ECET-Itihad decided to move towards the red zone and record protest.”

Last week on July 23, around 24 protesting ECETs were reportedly arrested by the Sindh police on charges of advancing towards the red zone. Later, the police released the teachers with orders of not advancing to the high-security zone.

“We are just demanding our due right as we have been working on existing positions since 2009,” said ECET representative Syed Murtaza Shah, adding that the Sindh government had also announced to hire fresh ECETs by the next year. “But the teachers who served in the same program were told that their services were no longer required, which is an injustice.”

According to the teachers’ body, the government had appointed the ECETs in 2009 on a contractual basis to administer the Early Learning Program (ELP) in the province under the National Education Policy 2009. The government had tasked the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) with conducting interviews and selection tests for the recruitment of teachers.

Later, on the orders of then education minister, the SEF kicked-off the selection process and hired 300 teachers from five districts of the province, including Tando Muhammad Khan, Naushahro Feroze, Khairpur, Ghotki, and Badin. These teachers served at 30 Early Childhood Learning Centers established in each of the districts. According to the appointment letters, the teachers had been hired for one year on a contractual basis which was to be renewed if they wished to carry on with their services.

The government, however, had appointed the teachers as an experiment to access the outcomes of the initiative. The government also had the plan that if the projects were successful they would be made a part of the government-administered schooling system. However, after running 150 centres, the authorities decided not to launch any other centre and extended ELP by establishing schools and nurseries in different parts of the province.

On June 30, ELP Assistant Director Imran Bux Arisar informed the ECETs that “it has been decided to formalize and complete the closing of 150 Early Childhood Centers of the ELP under the School Education and Literacy Department with the approval by the SEF’s Board of Governors”.

The ECETs were informed that the SEF no longer needed their services and hence would not be paid after June 30. The foundation, however, admitted the teachers’ services at the centres. Earlier in July, these teachers formed the organization ECET-Itihad Sindh and stage their sit-in camp outside the KPC.

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