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Nepali teachers strike work over new bill

Closure of 29,000 public schools has affected the education of over 7 million students

Members of the Nepal Teachers’ Association protest near the parliament against the new school bill in Kathmandu on Sept. 21.

Members of the Nepal Teachers’ Association protest near the parliament against the new school bill in Kathmandu on Sept. 21. (Photo: AFP)

Published: September 22, 2023 11:25 AM GMT

Updated: September 22, 2023 12:05 PM GMT

Most of Nepal’s 29,000 schools were shut for the third day on Sept. 22, after thousands of teachers began to protest a proposed education bill, saying it threatened their job security and development.

Nearly 282,500 teachers from public and private schools have been protesting the bill since Sept. 20, adversely affecting the education of over 7 million students in the Himalayan nation.

The representatives of the government and teachers held a meeting on Sept. 21 which remained inconclusive. But talks resumed on Sept. 22.

Teachers maintain the bill proposes to hand over the jurisdiction of school teachers to the local government instead of the central government. They are concerned the change will help political infiltrations in the management of teachers.

“Some provisions are directed to control the teachers and their rights instead of empowering them,” said N.D. Lama, principal of Dynamic Public School, a Christian institution catering to the marginalized, in Lalitpur. 

Concerned over the disruption of the education of thousands of students, the National Human Rights Commission and education experts have urged the agitating teachers not to deprive students of their right to education.

The rights panel in a statement on Sept. 21 urged teachers not to hamper the rights of students. 

“It is important to make sure that students’ education is not hampered because of the protest,” Lama said.

Professor Bidhyanath Koirala, based in the capital Kathmandu, also felt that students shouldn’t be deprived of their right to attend school and learn. 

"School administration and the teachers should come up with alternative ways," he suggested.

The proposed School Education Bill, 2023, tabled in parliament on Sept. 13, will reform the five-decade-old Education Act which places teachers under the management of the federal government.

The new constitution adopted by Nepal on Sept. 20, 2015, places the authority to oversee the entire school education system, including teachers, with local governments. 

However, the government signed a pact with the Nepal Teachers’ Federation (NTF), an elected umbrella body representing public school teachers across the country, to keep teachers under the management of the federal government last year.

The federation said that the new bill violates the earlier pact and follows the constitution to place teachers under the control of local governments.

“We are hopeful that the government will take our concerns seriously. Our protest will continue until our demands are met,” said Kamala Tuladhar, president of the NTF, on Sept 22.

We want the government to comply with last year’s pact, Tuladhar demanded. 

The federation has come out with an 18-point demand that temporary teachers should be made permanent, according to reports in local newspapers.

Ever since the promulgation of the new constitution, successive governments have wanted to reform the education sector. However, it took eight years for the new bill to be tabled in parliament after several failed attempts.

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