Talks between the government and the agitating teachers inconclusive despite two rounds of negotiations
KATHMANDU, Sept 22: Expressing dissatisfaction with some of the provisions in the School Education Bill 2080 BS introduced recently by the federal government, government school teachers continued with their Kathmandu-centric protest for the second day in a row on Thursday.
The agitating teachers who arrived in the capital from all over the country at the call of the Nepal Teachers’ Federation, gathered at Maitighar Mandala on Wednesday to stage demonstrations. They carried placards with slogans such as 'stop abuse of school teachers' and 'allocate 20 percent of the total budget for education'.
As the protesting teachers refused to engage in negotiations with the Education Minister, the government earlier entrusted Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha with the responsibility of leading the negotiations with the agitating teachers. They maintained that the Education Minister alone cannot address their demands that involve issues related to other ministries including finance and law ministries.
The government team led by DPM Shrestha included Minister for Education Science and Technology, Ashok Kumar Rai, Secretary at the Education Ministry, while the talks team of the agitating teachers included the representatives of the Nepal Teachers' Federation, and members of the Higher Secondary Teachers Union Nepal (HISTUN) in the first round of talks held on Thursday morning.
The agitating teachers had proposed that the government provide written assurances regarding their concerns and the amendment to relevant provisions in the Education Bill, 2080 BS that is scheduled to be discussed in the parliamentary committee before its endorsement through the federal parliament. Some of the lawmakers including NC General Secretary Gagan Thapa have publicly assured that their genuine demands will be addressed and necessary amendments will be made to the Education Bill before its ratification from parliament.
However, the agitating teachers have accused the federal government of being ‘unwilling’ to commit to their demands.
During the meeting held between the two sides on Thursday morning, Education Minister Rai reiterated the government's willingness to address the teachers' concerns, emphasizing that while the government strives to motivate teachers, budget constraints in the education sector pose challenges.
The second round of talks between the two sides was held on Thursday evening at the home ministry. The government talks team led by DPM and Home Minister Shrestha includes Education Minister Rai, Finance Minister Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat and Law Minister Dhan Raj Gurung. Secretaries of these ministries were also present during the meeting with the representatives of the agitating public school teachers. ।
Although the agitating teachers held two rounds of negotiations with the government team led by DPM Shrestha on Thursday, the two sides could not reach any agreement. The agitating teachers alleged that they could not reach an agreement as the government side expressed its inability to meet many of their demands.
Following the lack of consensus in the first round of talks on Thursday morning, the teachers initiated protests at Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu. The protest not only threw vehicular movement in major thoroughfares of the city out of gear, but also forced parliamentary committees to postpone their scheduled meetings on Thursday. The scheduled meetings of the Finance and International Relations Committee under the House of Representatives slated for Thursday were put off as lawmakers were unable to reach Singha Durbar on time due to vehicular traffic jams.
The agitating teachers from different parts of the country arrived in Kathmandu suspending teaching learning activities in their respective schools. As the agreement between the government and the agitating teachers prolongs further, there have been concerns over the right to education of children studying at public schools.
Some of the key demands of the agitating teachers:
Provide permanent appointments to all temporary teachers.
Cover financial obligations for all non-teaching staff in public schools by the federal government.
Elevate Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers to the status of third-grade primary teachers.
Ensure pensions for all public school teachers appointed prior to the enactment of the Federal Education Act, following the old pension system.
Consider the duration served as a temporary teacher while granting permanent status for pension purposes.
Grant trade union rights to public school teachers
Implement a periodic promotion system to address the issue of teachers serving in one grade without further promotion for an extended period.
Guarantee a salary and grade for teachers equivalent to that of civil servants.
Conduct competitive examinations by the Teachers’ Service Commission for the appointment of headmasters in all public schools
Establish a Teaching Council to oversee the training of public school teachers.
Restrict local governments from having the authority to transfer teachers.
Prevent the granting of public school teacher vacancies to the local level.
Ensure salary of teachers in institutional schools equivalent to those teaching in public schools.
Deny local levels the authority to take action against teachers.
Maintain the current funding for teachers' medicine and treatment without any reduction.