KATHMANDU, May 11: At a time when school teachers' active participation in politics is being criticized, the teachers affiliated to various political parties have claimed that it is their political right.
There are about 200,000 teachers including around 150,000 under government quota and some 50,000 under temporary quota across the country. It is hard to find independent teachers in the country where about a dozen teachers' organizations belonging to different political parties exist, lament experts.
Meanwhile, guardians complain that these days many teachers can be seen carrying flags of different political parties in the rallies and gatherings of political parties during their campaigns for the first phase of local level elections being held on May 14. “We have realized that teachers are actively involved in politics while the law of the country has restricted them from doing so,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, former-president of the Guardians' Association Nepal. “If they are cadres of political parties, will they teach the students to be critical about politics?”
Education expert Prof Dr Bidhya Nath Koirala said that teachers were always the cadres of political parties. “It is not surprising if they act as the cadres of the political parties,” Prof Koirala said. “No one is able to stop them from the getting involved in politics,” he said.
“It is challenging for them to be critical about politics. They should prove themselves by preventing the political parties from doing irrational things. Otherwise, what's the meaning of their education?” Prof Koirala asked.
As requested by the Election Commission, the government decided to close the schools from May 8-14 for the local level elections on May 14.
Representatives of the teachers' organizations claimed that it is their political right to participate in political activities. “We can go anywhere after or before our duty hours in school,” said Keshav Niraula, president of Nepal Teachers' Union, affiliated to the Nepali Congress. “We are also citizens of this country,” he said. “We are involved in the election campaigns of the political parties. There is nothing wring with that.”
Babu Ram Thapa, president of Nepal National Teachers' Organization, affiliated to the CPN-UML, said that it is their right to get involved in politics. “We can change society for good,” he said. “Our involvement in politics is not against the law of the country,” he claimed.
The eighth amendment to the Education Act which came into effect about 11 months ago restricts any school teacher from holding any political post. Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, said that teachers cannot hold any official political post. “The district education offices are responsible for monitoring if teachers have held any executive political post. If so, they should take action against such teachers,” he added