Restoration of student unions

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After years of struggle, students have now completed their long journey to achieve the restoration of student unions. The Sindh Assembly has enacted a law allowing student unions in the province. The legislation was passed unanimously demonstrating that all parties felt the need for revival of student unions that were banned in 1984. The ban was aimed at providing an environment conducive to education and to prevent petty politics on the campus. The step backfired. The bitter experience of violence at educational institutions and periodic disruption of academic activities bear this out. The ban only harmed students and introduced gun culture on the campus. Student wings of political parties fought violent battles on the campus vitiating the academic atmosphere. The ban thwarted healthy activities and disturbed education.

Student unions serve as nurseries of democracy. They promote exchange of ideas and healthy debate among the youth and nurture in them the spirit to respect difference of opinion. Now all these positive avenues will be available to students. The law will allow student representation on decision-making bodies like the university senate and syndicate besides the formation of a student committee against harassment. As students from different social backgrounds come together on the platform of unions, it will help attain improved cohesion on the campus as well as in the larger society. Elected unions help students throughout their academic career. They guide them in matters concerning solution to their problems. Unions act as a bridge between university authorities and students, thus facilitating redressal of the latter’s grievances. Student complaints may range from improvement in studies, harassment and hostel accommodation to extra-curricular activities. The absence of unions left students confused as to who to approach for resolution of their issues. Now students can raise their concerns with unions and they will get a helping hand from them.

A mechanism for implementation of the new law will be decided in two months. The government should take student representatives in the loop in this regard. The law seeks to curb violence on the campus — something that is essential for pursuance of education. Now a vibrant academic and cultural atmosphere is expected at universities.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2022.

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