Decree to spell trouble for universities, warn teachers
KABUL (Pajhwok): Some university teachers on Monday feared the implementation of a presidential decree regarding higher educational institutes would create problems, but the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) rejected the concern as unfounded.
Lutfullah Safi, a former professor at the Kabul University, believed the immediate enforcement of the legislative decree would spawn serious complications for universities -- something that has left teachers in a state of apprehension.
Under Article 79 of the constitution, the president could issue legislative decrees, when required. But there was no urgency for the president to issue the new law regarding universities and higher education institutes, he alleged.
Safi claimed: “The presidential order has created a good opportunity for conspiracies.”The decree should not be in conflict with the country’s laws, he said, insisting the order ran counter to labour law.
Article 138 says a government servant retires at the age of 65 but his service could be extended for another five years. The retirement of educational institutes’ staff and academics is decided under special regulations.
Safi warned the country’s universities could collapse if the presidential decree was enforced in totality. In line with the new law, the promotion of a teacher with bachelor degree is linked with master’s degree. No bachelor degree-holder could go for post-graduate studies if he she is more than 40 years old.
And if the same teacher does not get six promotions, he/she will be fired, according to the ex-professor, who said if the legislative decree was enforced, most of universities would be without teachers in the near future.
Safi said 1,707 teachers with masters and 205 with PhDs were presently serving across the country. Of them, 782 have reached the retirement age and control the grading system and handle curriculum issues at 37 universities.
He said if some of the teachers retired on attaining the superannuation age, the country’s universities would be faced with an immediate shortage of staff. There would be a vacuum in the administration of universities as well, he explained.
Currently 21 percent of Kabul university lecturers are doctors, professors and associate professors, while 30 percent staff of a higher education institute with six faculties should be academics. He added provincial universities could not meet this condition.
He remarked the MoHE could implement the decree if it wanted to destroy universities. About the non-employment of bachelors and removing the assistant professor’s rank, he said, “There are 5,291 lecturers in all universities of the country. Only 728 of them are professors and associate professors and 4,563 others are assistant professors. At least 814 are on probation.”
The academics were waiting to obtain master degrees to get promotions, the ex-teacher noted. Only 2,856 lecturers will be teaching if 1,707 master degree-holders are excluded from the total of 4,563.
Based on the decree of the 2,856 lecturers, only those under 40 could pursue higher studies, Safi maintained. The professors under 65 are not affected by the decree. Article 69 of the decree says all bachelors under 40 should obtain master degrees. And bachelors above 40 are not allowed to pursue higher education.
Safi said a university should have at least six faculties and be located in a proper place. Thirty percent of its teaching staff should be doctors, professors and associate professor. It should follow a standard curriculum and research activities.
Similarly, a university should have a scientific research management centre, a scientific magazine, a library, Internet, a well-equipped laboratory, hostels, sports facilities, an information technology department and a programme for master’s or higher degrees.
A university lacking above these standards is called an institute, so the implementation of the decree will convert universities into institutes. Safi added the draft created by lecturers contained 79 articles while the presidential decree contained 72 articles.
The presidential decree has removed Articles 77 and 78 of draft prepared by lecturers. It also threatened articles 3, 20, 24, 34 and 36 of the higher education law, he said.
The suggestions given below were important to make the higher education law effective and improve the quality of higher education in Afghanistan, Safi said.
- Universities that do not meet the conditions as spelled out in the legislative decree be given three years’ time to fulfill the requirements.
- The branches that do not have master-level education facility be allowed to recruit teachers with lower qualifications if they could not find doctors.
- If a university does not have professors or associate professors should appoint assistant professors.
Another Kabul University teacher and political analyst, Dr. Faiz Mohammad Zaland, agreed with Safi’s observations. The decree was against the national interest and higher education institutes, he concurred, calling it a grave injustice to university teachers.
He accused Iranian agents in the Presidential Palace of manipulating the original law and dubbed the decree a sinister plot against government-run universities.
But analyst Khoshal Khalil supported the decree, saying there were some figures that resisted every new system or law. Obviously, some university teachers would be affected by the law, but the government should pay their salaries in the form of pension, he said.
There were some drawbacks in the higher education law which would be removed with the enforcement of the legislative decree, he commented. When put in place, the proposed system would have merits than demerits, he believed. “For one, I support this new move.”
Faisal Amin, spokesman for the MoHE, said before preparing the draft, they had consulted many professors and academics of higher education institutes. A special commission and another panel were set up to work on the draft for several months.
After a lot of brainstorming and consultations, they draft was sent to the Ministry of Justice for fine-tuning before being presented to president. After being debated and amended by the cabinet, the draft was made into a legislative decree, he said.
It was the responsibility of the ministry to enforce the law, he said, denying any loopholes in the measure.
After the decree was issued, lecturers of four universities in Kabul raised their voice against it and went on five-day strike. Kabul University Professor Dr. Aziz-ur-Rahman said more than 2,500 lecturers would be terminated and 785 others retired with the enforcement of the law.
The lectures have also sent a letter to the Supreme Court, saying: “The legislative decree was not the version prepared by university teachers. The Ministry of Justice and the cabinet framed the law, whose enforcement would pose a major challenge to universities.”
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