Students Unions have been a controversial topic in Pakistan. They are believed to cause disruption in the educational progress of students by promoting violence. They were once very active in Pakistani universities. One of the first encounters I had with the idea of student unions was when my grandmother narrated a story of my grandfather who reportedly once became part of a student union and joined one of the political rallies. He was immediately called back home and scolded for doing so. He was also told that people from respectable families do not join such movements. This represents the idea that parents did not feel that joining student unions was a noble thing to do. Families have also considered these unions dangerous and an activity that diverts students’ attention from their studies.
This anecdote represents student unions in a negative light however, at the same time I have also heard that even during the time student unions were banned, there was still violence experienced at universities. My relative narrated a story of when she was doing her baccalaureate degree. She completed her undergraduate degree of four years in five and a half years just because of conflicts between students during that time. Her university used to close for days when conflict erupted between students who carried guns. This example represents the idea that perhaps student unions are not the only cause of violence.
Moreover, even in recent times educational institutions have been shut down due to political conflicts or bomb threats. The student unions were clearly not behind them. It also shows that any sort of violence can hinder education and not just violence by student unions. Student unions can only be harmful if they have arms with them. Universities can stop entry of arms within their boundaries and have rules and regulations in place. Even regular groups of students with arms can be harmful for the university’s environment. It is not necessary that student unions are the sole reason behind it.
Lastly, student unions are usually seen in a negative light and the positives are hardly shared. Parents do not encourage them because they are considered a distraction. At the same time parents also wish to protect their children from any sort of action that involves arms. No one wants arms in universities and colleges which is supposed to be a safe space for students and efforts should be made to protect the education of students but at the same time allow student unions to function freely.
Violence can be the result of various reasons and student unions should not be considered the only reason for it. Rather they should be organized in such a manner that values intellect and attempts to mitigate violence.