The way the eighth amendment of the Education Act was passed, in the dead of the night, with only 156 of the 601 MPs present in the house, thus barely meeting the 25 percent quorum, was indicative of the nefarious intent of Education Minister Gopal Man Shrestha. He had a reason to keep the whole thing as low-key as possible; everyone understands that this amendment is a serious blow for the long-term viability of our community schools that 82 percent of all school-going students in Nepal attend. The amendment allows temporary teachers with untested qualifications to get permanent teaching positions, even those who secure bare minimum marks in the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) qualifying exams. This threatens to further accelerate the trend of more and more students preferring to go to private schools, eventually stripping the community schools bare. Sources at the Ministry of Education Republica spoke to say that the eighth amendment was passed at the behest of private schools so that they could attract even more students from community schools.
After the amendment, 75 percent vacancies in community schools will be filled through internal competition among temporary teachers while only 25 percent will be filled through open competition. Interestingly, even the temporary teachers who cannot secure minimal marks in TSC exams will now be eligible for golden handshakes, at an additional financial liability of Rs 8 billion to the state. We are not against compensating temporary teachers who have served in community schools for years, sometimes even decades, when they leave their job. But the hush-hush manner in which the government has gone about it makes us suspect foul play. For instance, most temporary teachers were affiliated with CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center), and there had been consistent pressure from these parties on the government to properly compensate the 30,000-odd temporary teachers. It is not that there was no political opposition to the amendment. Congress lawmakers like Gagan Thapa and Radheshayam Adhkari and UML’s Rabindra Adhikari had vehemently opposed the bill, saying that the amendment takes away the right to quality education of the vast majority of school-going students in Nepal. But Education Minister Shrestha continued to unreasonably insist that only ‘qualified’ temporary teachers would get the teaching license even if they get bare minimum marks in TSC exams.
A day after the eighth amendment was passed, Kedar Bhakta Mathema and Mana Prasad Wagle, two renowned educationists serving in the High Level Education Commission, resigned in protest. The commission had been tasked with devising a new school education policy for federal Nepal. Both were of the view that with the government itself seemingly intent on hollowing our public education, there was no point in serving in a commission formed with the express purpose of improving the quality of public education. They are bang on. We call on the government to roll back this sinister amendment that could really devastate our community schools. It simply does not have the right to play with the future of millions of school students to enrich some vested interest groups.