Some 1,000 teachers quit their jobs to contest local polls
KATHMANDU, June 21: As many as 1,000 teachers across the country resigned from their posts to contest the local body elections, indicating how far school teachers are active in politics.
The local body polls in provinces 3, 4 and 6 were held on May 14 while the elections in provinces 1, 5 and 7 will be held on June 14. Elections in Province 2 will be held in September.
More than 1,000 teachers belonging to different political parties resigned from their posts to contest the local elections, according to teachers' organizations. There are nearly 300,000 teachers in the country, including about 107,000 permanent teachers, some 40,000 teachers under relief quota in government schools, some 36,000 teachers at early childhood development centers, and approximately 100,000 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.
More than 500 teachers affiliated to NNTA resigned from their posts to contest the polls for local bodies, claimed Babu Ram Thapa, president of NNTA. "About 100 teachers were elected in the first phase polls while some 100 faced defeat," he said.
Similarly, nearly 250 teachers affiliated to NTU resigned to contest the local polls, said Keshav Niraula, president of NTU. "Among some 100 teachers contesting the first phase, 63 were elected," he added.
Likewise, nearly 40 teachers from UANTA quit their jobs to contest the local polls, said Ratna Oli, president of UNTA. "Ten teachers won in the first phase polls and 11 others are contesting the second phase," he said adding that the teachers were not actively involved in politics.
Teachers can contest polls after quitting their teaching posts but a huge majority of working teachers are actively involved in politics and this runs counter to the spirit of their calling, said Suprabhat Bhandari, former president of the Guardians' Association Nepal. "It is their right to vote in elections but it's against the ethics and regulations for teachers to involve themselves actively in politics," he added.
The eighth amendment to the Education Act 2016 has restricted teachers from holding executive posts in political parties but the law is silent about other kinds of involvement.
Teachers are being criticized for getting involved in active politics and the teachers' organizations have taken this as a positive thing for social change.
"Teachers are an educated lot who can change the society. So it is their right to get involved in politics for a good cause," said Thapa. "However, they are not allowed to engage in politics during school hours when they should be fulfilling their teaching responsibilities," he said. Involvement of teachers in politics affects the teaching-learning process, he admitted adding that this results in bad performance by the schools.
Education expert Prof Bidhya Nath Koirala said, "Political parties are involved in politicizing the education sector and it is they that allowed political involvement by teachers. The teachers are always political party cadres and they have shown this by quitting their posts to openly contest polls," he said. "They have not been able to translate the ideologies of their mother parties into practice but they have used the parties as a ladder to get what they wanted," he added.
However, the teachers elected to the local bodies might give priority to the education sector, said Koirala. "If they can help improve the education sector, it will be a positive thing," he said.