Community school teachers from all over the country started protesting against the provisions proposed in the 'School Education Bill 2080' that was recently introduced in Federal Parliament. Following the initiation of the National Teachers' Federation, thousands of teachers from all 77 districts staged a demonstration on Wednesday in Kathmandu.
They carried placards with slogans such as 'Stop abuse of school teachers' and 'Invest 20% of the total budget in education'. Permanent and teaching staff under varied arrangements from all 77 districts attended the protest. They are adamant about not returning until their demand is met.
The education bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on September 13. They immediately spoke out, claiming that the law would be unfair to public school teachers. The Bill, which was created to revise and unify school education legislation, provides for the transfer, promotion, appointment, service facilities, regulation, and so on of teachers to fall within the authority of the municipality. Whereas they have refused to be governed by the local municipality, expressing their discontent with the arrangement. They claim that the administration has done unjust to community school teachers through the bill.
They argue that delegating responsibility for education to the municipality will be arbitrary and unjust to permanent teachers. They claim that the education sector, like the civil service, should not be handed to municipalities. The Federation demands that temporary teachers be made permanent in accordance with previous agreements; that the federal government assume responsibility for school employees; that ECD teachers be given the same position as primary and secondary teachers; that teachers appointed prior to the enactment of the Federal Education Act be pensioned in accordance with the previous system; and that if temporary teachers are to be converted into permanent, the temporary service term must also be added for pension purposes.
Similarly, by revising the existing legislation, there should be a provision for periodic promotion for educators who have worked in the same category for a long time. The demands include specific rules to ensure that teachers' salaries and grades are not lower than those of civil servants; that principals be appointed through an open competition by the Teachers Service Commission; and that the teaching council be commissioned for teacher training. They also urge that the authority to transfer teachers not be given to local governments.
Similarly, there are demands for institutional school teachers to have the same amenities as community school teachers, that medical allowances for teachers not be lowered, and so on. Over 157,000 teachers presently work in 27,343 public schools across the country.
The demonstration has also been criticized. Many people are speaking out against school closures for protests, claiming that it violates students' rights and interests. Dr. Vidyanath Koirala, an educationist, believes that teachers should not protest. Teachers, he argued, should not act like party members since they are professionals. "This is not the time to be agitated. Rather, it is a matter to consider. 'Are the demonstrators teachers, professionals, or party members?' he inquired, 'Tell me. If you are a party member, it is okay to be agitated. If you are a professional, do you have to play the gimmicks of Congress, UML and Maoists?
Schools ready to defy KMC's warning to punish teachers who halt teaching
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has expressed its concerns on the closure of the school as a result of protest. The metropolis has also warned that action will be taken if schools are closed in the name of teachers' protest. The metropolis has warned that schools will be monitored from today (Thursday) and action will be taken if schools are found closed.
According to the Metropolis, action will be taken against the principal or the teacher who does not attend the school in the name of teacher's protest in the school inspection that will be conducted from Thursday.
Whereas the principals of 80 schools in Kathmandu Metropolitan City have agreed to defy the orders and join the protest.
Legitimate demands put forward by the teachers should be addressed: Sharma
Bishwa Prakash Sharma, General Secretary of the Nepali Congress, has stated that the demands of the teachers' movement should be addressed. He has urged the administration and the teachers to reach an early solution via negotiation and reopen the school. We must resolve the issues that have been entangled for years through the Federal Education Act. 'We live in a democratic state system; the state has a duty to listen to the voice of even a single individual; so, the democratic state should not hesitate to listen to and comprehend the voices of millions of teachers.'
Government should be ready to accomodate the teacher’s demands in the bill: Bartaula
Mahesh Bartaula, also the chief whip of CPN-UML, has said that the government should immediately negotiate with the protesting teachers and find a solution. "With regard to the Education Bill 2080 registered in Parliament, most of the demands raised by the Nepal Teachers' Federation through the movement appear to be appropriate to increase citizens' trust, credibility, and quality of overall public education and to make the teaching profession dignified and respected," he said. " The government should be ready to move forward by including the demands raised by the Nepal Teachers' in the Bill."
The state cannot continue to ignore the teacher’s demands: Pun
Deputy General Secretary of CPN (Maoist Centre) Barshaman Pun has said that the government should address the demands of the protesting teachers. He said that the government and political parties should respond positively to teachers' discontent and legitimate demands. He stated that in a democracy, the government should listen to everyone's opinion. We live in a democratic system. 'Everyone's voice should be heard in a democracy,' he says. 'The state cannot and should not ignore the demands raised by the intellectual professionals of society.'
Pun presented an alternative that could address the demands of the teachers through the amendment proposal and also advised the teachers not to halt the routine teaching learning activities. There is room to change in some of the provisions of the bill through amendments. That's why teachers should be patient without losing their composure,'' he said.