Throughout my school life, I tried to befriend every teacher and every officer of the administration, junior and senior alike. I tried to be on good terms with the custodian staff, memorized their names, asked them about their family, assisted them during Parent-Teacher Conferences, and tried to make their work easier. I added them on social media and commented that I liked their new cricket kit, until they started to confide in me, problems they could not inform the administration about. I called them ‘bhai’ (brother) and I embraced them as I exited the O-Level Campus.
Throughout history, we can observe that the emergence of a disease signifies the end of social divisions. Whether the Black Death that wiped out half of Europe, or the ancient plagues of Egypt, the privileged and the unprivileged bear the brunt of the disease together. Today’s pandemic, however, has risen in a time of knowledge and science, and we were rightly told to stay at home, limit our movements, and practice social distancing measures.
A couple of days earlier, reports started circulating that a renowned school in Lahore－the Lahore College of Arts and Sciences－had started firing the custodian staff, ‘non-essential’ teachers, and some members of the administration as well, allegedly bringing the number to an astonishing 190. Sources have informed us that the school would be paying the salaries to these unemployed individuals for a month, after which their pay would be resumed only after the campus reopens and they restart work.
To confirm these reports, Team Jayzoq reached out to some of the victims, and we can safely confirm that the LACAS system did, indeed, fire hundreds of staff members and teachers.
This decision, and the absolute silence that followed it, has triggered the sentiments of a majority of the student body and alumni, who intend to give the Directorate of LACAS a hard time, by commenting and tagging them on social media platforms. They claim the social media teams of the institution are engaged in a constant attempt to remove such comments which would allow them to pretend as if nothing happened.
What we can infer from this, is a fact that we all know deep in our hearts, but refuse to say out loud: that the decision-makers are business people, instead of educationalists; and a businessperson will do anything to preserve their empire of assets, even if they have to scrap fundamental morals which form the basis of our ‘civilized’ society. Educationalists would never abandon the people who make education possible, especially in these difficult times, but a businessperson will see no other way.
On his Instagram account, the former Head Boy of the institution, Shaheer Akhtar puts forward a criticism of these actions: “I understand that the number of staff members fired is not confirmed, but that does not have to matter from an ethical standpoint: whether you take away the livelihood of 20 people or 200 people, you’re still harming each of those individuals’ families in the same way.” Mr. Akhtar further pointed out that whenever issues over income find their way to the school, it is always the students and the staff members that suffer.
He could not have been more right; I still have the change, the photocopier handed me after I printed a test out of my own pocket money, a testimony of a shameful policy of the school cutting down on its ‘expenses’ when the Chief Justice of Pakistan ordered private schools to lower their fees.
Since LACAS hasn’t issued any statements regarding this controversial action, we can assume the reasons mentioned in the letter attached above; that their income has taken a great hit. Let me remind them of their hypocrisy just a couple of months earlier, when they refused to send students’ grades to the University of Cambridge, unless the school dues were not cleared, which by the way occurred well after the government imposed the nationwide lockdown. How has your income suffered when you continue to press parents for fees even today, when you no longer have to pay for electricity and other utilities? Even from students of A2 who have already left your institution, and are only waiting for CAIE results and for their university semesters to start in the fall? If you had to save cash, why couldn’t you take cuts in your own healthy salaries? (And yes, I’m talking about people in the higher-ups).
Let’s consider that a large number of parents have been unable to pay the fees (which is an unlikely assumption); was there really no other solution other than discarding the people who survive from paycheck to paycheck while the administration sits contentedly at home with their air conditioners working 24/7 and their children studying at full tuition, abroad? In the words of Mr. Akhtar, “…maybe stop your business empire’s expansion and stop constructing new campuses for a year or two?”
Let us further break down what LACAS is doing, shall we? Obtaining full fee from the students while providing subpar online education, and firing scores of staff members, in the midst of a pandemic when they can not possibly find another job, and therefore sustain themselves. Furthermore, they claim they’ll hire them back once the school reopens, thereby offering a pathetic consolation to the people who are literally on the brink of starvation. The social divisions, the sheer disregard for the unprivileged while living and dictating in luxury, and the shallow attempts to salvage their reputation; in a way, it’s the Pakistani version of the build-up to the French Revolution.
Some students felt like the Student Council was to blame for the hush introduced by the institution, and the Council started receiving hate messages, with regards to their inability to do anything about the problem. Having been the Head Boy myself, I can vouch for the Council which does not have any practical authority; the only help they can provide is by letting the administration know what sentiments they’re ignoring.
Mr Owais Sabri, the former President of the Public Speaking Society at LACAS Johar Town A-Levels, has a similar viewpoint to Mr Akhtar’s, and says: “We have had to pay the school fee (with a 20% standard deduction by the government) till June. That is two months past our last working day. Lack of funds is not an excuse for firing your workers.”