November 21, 2017 06:50 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, Nov 20: The Election Commission (EC) has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Education (MoE) to arrange a four-day leave for schools and colleges across the country for the upcoming parliamentary polls.
The elections are being held in 32 districts on November 26 and in the remaining 45 districts on December 7. According to the EC, there are 15,427,731 eligible voters in the elections that are being conducted at some 18,000 polling stations.
“A carbon copy of the letter issued by the EC to MoHA has been sent to us,” said Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesperson for MoE. “In coordination with MoHA, we are all set to announce a four-day leave for schools and educational institutions,” he said. “Colleges and campuses will arrange their leaves as per their own decisions,” he added.
As in previous elections, many of the polling booths are located in schools and educational institutions including colleges while hundreds of school teachers will be assigned to poll duty as election officers, according to MoE. “The EC letter has instructed the districts to issue their four-day leave as per their respective election phase,” said Dr Lamsal.
According to MoE, all schools in the 32 districts will be closed from November 23 to 26 while schools in the remaining 45 districts will be closed from December 4 to 7. November 25 is a Saturday and the EC has already sought public holidays on November 23 and December 7 on the days of the national polls.
There are some 7.5 million students in schools including those in the private sector while about one million students are in higher educational institutions.
Of the nearly 300,000 teachers in the country, about 107,000 are permanent teachers, some 40,000 teachers are in government schools under the relief quota, some 36,000 are at early childhood development centers, and approximately 100,000 are in private schools.
Among the teachers, 72,000 including 10,000 from private schools are members of the Nepal National Teachers Association (NNTA), which is affiliated to the CPN-UML.
Similarly, 85,000 teachers at government schools belong to the Nepali Congress-affiliated Nepal Teachers Union (NTU), and 45,000 are affiliated to the Unified All Nepal Teachers Association (UANTA) of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center). Hundreds of other teachers are affiliated to various smaller political parties.
School teachers are frequently criticized for taking to political activity rather than being earnestly involved in their callings. “Many teachers have already started involving themselves in election campaigns organized by the political parties and candidates,” said stakeholders. “It's not ethical to engage in politics while holding teaching posts,” they added.