This article is written by Shehryar Ahmed, a student of International Relations at the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad. He is interested in Politics, International Relations, Diplomacy, Power Politics, and International Law.
Politics of Student Union:
The active participation of students in politics is no more after the ban on student unions by Zia-ul-Haq in 1984. Students Unions, which were considered the reason for the toppling of the government of dictator Ayub Khan are no more. After a short resume after 1984, student unions were banned by the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1993. Since then, student politics, as well as unions, are no more in the country. 2018 and 19 are marked by the student solidarity march. Recent progression is seen in Sindh-where student unions are allowed to be functional with some rules and regulations.
Time and time again, after the ban on student unions in 1984, the topic of student unions has pulled the attention of the audience but chains on student unions are kept tight. There have been two schools of thought regarding the matter of student unions. One is of the view that politics should be kept away from educational institutions-student unions brings violence to educational institutions and the other is aware of the paramount importance of student union and their role in shaping a future leader. Student union can be said as the nursery of politics.
With over 37 years of ban on prestigious student unions, it is necessary to highlight what actually was the concept of student unions? The student union is the elected body of students in an educational institution that represents the student’s point of view on the academic as well as a political front. Same as the democratic process in the country, members of the student union are elected democratically for a year. And most important obligation is raising the voice for solving the problems of students. We can call student unions a practical democratic ethos.
Introduction of private institutions-where we pay maximum dues and get the least amenities became a reason for the decline of the culture of a student union. You cannot raise your voice in a private institution. Profit maximization is at its peak. Standing for your right is not an option in a private institution or else you have to pay the price. Education as a source of money has always damaged both education and the quality of education as well. Will usurpers of rights of students will allow the maximization of student power?
We often hear that Pakistan is a youth-bulge country-where 60-65% is below the age of 30. This large population is kept away from politics. They are not allowed to express their opinions, thoughts and take a stand for themselves and their fellows as well. Students cannot question the quality of their educational institution. Standing for the rights of students is a rare scenario these days. Who will raise the voice of miserable students? Who will benchmark the difficulties of students?
Quoting the past, critics argue that students become violent and misuse the platform made for their ease and opportunity, and student unions question the respect of teachers as well. According to my meager wisdom, student unions provide a platform for learning to our young generation. Actually, student unions provided a platform for discussion and debate of different narratives, it enriched the knowledge of students and moderated the battle of ideas.
Pakistan is gradually becoming a single-narrative nation where there is no tolerance of another side of the story. Thinking differently is proscribed. We keep on complaining about the missing critical discourse in our education system. This critical discourse is injected with the concept of student unions. Student Union enriches you with different philosophies and teaches you the art of negotiation as well as to find a middle way to tackle an existing problem and also the art of leadership.
There are both, perks as well as perils of having student unions. Student unions must not cross the limit but limiting students is not a good idea as well. Apolitical students are most favorable who do not ask a question for themselves. Marginalizing students is not a wise choice. De-politicized students are unable to define their priorities and are not able to raise a voice for themselves. The crux of the debate is student unions enhance your ability to speak for yourself.
This views expressed in this article are personal views of the author, and do not reflect the policy of the youth diplomacy forum