» 01/28/2015, 00.00
Thousands of students march to Yangon, against education reform
Francis Khoo Thwe
Young people, from different cities, are heading to the commercial capital of Myanmar. They plan to hold a major demonstration to demand amendments to the government text. Organizations and activists alongside the students. Among the most controversial issues, free association and the teaching of local dialects.
(AsiaNews) - Burmese high school and university students are on a long march to
demand changes to the controversial law to reform the education sector, which
violates academic freedom and does not respect the rights of all citizens.
have been waiting - in vain - to be summoned by the government to discuss the
critical points of the norm. The two-month moratorium passed without result and
as a result the students have launched a new campaign of protest, leaving
several cities around Myanmar on foot to converge later this month on Yangon
with a massive street demonstration.
young people have joined the march, after a first series of protests last
November failed to obtain any result. Government and Parliament pushed ahead
with the study and approval of the education reform - acknowledging some indications
made by Burmese President Thein Sein - without consultating those affected, the
students. Among the points in the center of the dispute, the possibility (so
far denied) to use languages and dialects in States where ethnic minorities
live, coupled with the ability to form student unions.
Ko Kyaw Ye Yint, spokesman of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions
(ABFSU), reports that the government has not received any group to speak about
the reform. This has led groups to set
out from Monywa, Mandalay, Mawlamyaing bound for Yangon, where a massive
demonstration will be held.
representatives have drawn up a list of 11 key points, to be implemented for a
real education reform in key plural and democratic. Most important among these
include: include a guarantee for the
establishment of student and teacher
unions independent of the government, changes to exam and entrance requirements
at universities, the introduction of ethnic languages, and a modernization of
the national syllabus. Finally, to devote at least 20% of the national
budget for education and raise the age of compulsory study to at least junior
organizations and personalities from the world of culture and civil society
have come out in support of the students, who "strongly" back the
young people's battle for a real reform in education. The 11 points drawn up by
the Burmese students are "fundamental" to guarantee a "democratic"
future to schools of the country. Even the Burmese opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi appeals to students, so that they are ready to "dialogue" with
the government to reach a final compromise on the law, which "must be
approved as soon as possible."
Since 2011 - when the military dictatorship
ended with the formation of a semi-civilian government, and the appointment of
a President (Thein Sein, a former junta general) - Myanmar has engaged in a
series of political and institutional reforms toward greater democracy.
However, this process of change - which has also led to the partial
cancellation of Western sanctions - has suffered a
sharp slowdown and opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi is
still barred from running for president.
At one time the education system in Myanmar
was considered among the best in Asia. However, decades of military
dictatorship and the strict control of colleges and universities have resulted
in a decline that still weighs on the quality and freedom of teaching. And the
threat, which was launched by students, to extend protests nationwide can only
alarm the Burmese authorities: 1988's pro-democracy protests were galvanized by
students in 1988, but as with the monks, also forcibly repressed by the
Myanmar, dozens of students on trial for protesting against education reform
At least 80 people have been made appear in court, many of them without knowing the exact charge. They are face charges of sowing disunity and encouraging instability, which carry jail terms of up to six years. They were brutally attacked by police and now risk jail time. The "reformist" president Thein Sein has defended police actions.
Police beat and arrest protesters in Yangon
Security forces and plainclothes agents target students and activists protesting in favour of changes to a proposed education reform bill. Witnesses say that some demonstrators were slightly injured. Sources told AsiaNews that some leading dissidents were among the people arrested. Some 200 people were protesting when the crackdown took place.
Jailed Burmese students in isolation for going a hunger strike
The students are protesting the refusal by the authorities to let them out on bail to take exams scheduled for September. The four students, who are from a Mandalay university, were arrested on July 1 for demonstrating against education reform. For Myanmar activists, the four have been abused and denied their basic rights.
As tensions increase between the government and students over education reform, police is set to act
The situation at a Buddhist monastery near Letpadan where police are cordoned off students is critical. The authorities are ready to use force to restore order. However, overnight some agents sympathise with students. "The situation is very tense," sources told AsiaNews. The Burmese Church is praying for a peacefully and broadly accepted school reform.
Education Reform: Buddhist nationalists and government endanger agreement
The government has been circulating a different draft from that one agreed with the students. It has not excluded taking legal action against protesting students. The latter have issued an ultimatum against the authorities. Fear is growing of a possible crackdown. Buddhist nationalist groups come out against the use of minority languages in education.
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