05/18/2007, 00.00
NEPAL
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Teachers’ strike jeopardising students’ future

by Kalpit Parajuli
Teachers launch strike for better job security, but job action really worries students across the country. More than 35,000 schools are shut down. Strike is set to continue until the government does not guarantee a contract and increases wages.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Ongoing strikes by Nepal’s teachers demanding better job security are jeopardising the education of the country’s 7.6 million students, including the 30,000 attending various Catholic mission schools.

The Nepal Education Republican Forum (NERF), the country’s main teachers union which is affiliated with the Nepali Communist Party, and other organisations have launched a non-stop job action. This has resulted in the shutdown of more than 35,000 schools, including private, community and mission schools.

Teachers want job security, higher pay and a formal contract. In fact, many schools hire teachers without contract and pay very low salaries

The principal of St Xavier School, Fr William  Bill Rabinson, is committed to improve the country’s education, but is very concerned.

“We must think about the students’ future. We must solve the growing problems through peaceful dialogue,” he said.

Carole Shrestha, who studies at St Mary, wonders “why all these strikes when none of them are about the future of us students.”

The government’s response has been to urge strikers to negotiate with a representative of the Education Ministry. Teachers turned down the offer saying that they would deal only with the Education Minister.

A union representative, Baburam Timilsina, said that “NERF would not stop until the government does not guarantee us a contract and better wages for the teachers of Nepal.”

A demonstration is set to take place today in front of the Prime Minister’s office.

The presidents of the Private and Boarding Schools` Organisation of Nepal (PABSON) and the National Private Boarding Schools` Organisation of Nepal (N-PABSON) have already held a meeting with Prime Minister  Girija Prasad Koirala.

After the meeting, PABSON’s President Umesh Shrestha said that the “Prime Minister is really concerned. We are doing all we can to reach a peaceful solution as quickly as possible.”

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