Call to disband political student groups at Varsities

LAHORE:April 21:Academicians have recommended university administrations should disband all political, sectarian, racial or ethnic organisations on campus while providing an alternative platform for student to express their opinion. After a two-day brainstorming session, educationists concluded on Thursday that universities should hold regular sports events, cultural programmes, study circles, speeches, debates and literary sessions in order to promote peace and tolerance in Punjab. The proposals came at the ‘Conference on Promotion of Peace and Tolerance on University Campuses of Punjab’, where vice-chancellors, student affairs directors, intellectuals and representatives of 27 public-sector universities were present. The summit was organised jointly by the Working Group for Promotion of Peace and Tolerance on University Campuses and the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC). “We need to preach the norms of plurality, diversity and peaceful coexistence and a university is the best place to begin,” said Punjab Higher Education Minister Syed Raza Ali Gillani at the concluding session. “Marginalised voices are needed to be accepted and included in the mainstream debate on peace and tolerance in society.” PHEC Chairman Dr Nizamuddin said tolerance was important for the development of mental faculties of university students. “We should develop and revive academic societies at our universities to tackle the issue of sporadic student groups in order to engage them in positive campus based activities,” he added. “While it is important to teach students about peace in classrooms, we also need to focus beyond the classroom. We need to work on improving the curriculum rather than syllabi. We should engage our students in extracurricular activities, debates, speeches and sports,” Dr Nizamuddin believed. At the conference, participants were divided into four working groups to formulate recommendations and suggestions. Members deliberated upon the possible role of media, civil society, government, varsity administrations, students and faculty members in promoting peace and tolerance on campuses. In their recommendations, different group members said the ban on student unions at varsities was commendable and should be extended to faculty unions and staff unions as well. A holistic approach was suggested for primary, secondary and tertiary-level education system. Courses like professional ethics, moral values and citizenship activism should be introduced and content of Islamic studies and Pakistan Studies should be revised, the academicians said. They also called for strictly monitoring mosques at universities and activities of religious groups so that they do not preach about a particular sect. Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2017.

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