Approximately 110,000 teachers in Nepal are staging protests against an education reform bill currently in parliament. They are specifically opposing proposals that grant local governments control over schools and a ban on teachers joining politically affiliated groups.
Protesters marched toward the parliament building in the capital, Kathmandu, with anti-riot police attempting to contain them. Students and parents are urging an end to the protests to allow classes to resume.
The teachers are particularly concerned about a provision in the bill that prohibits them from joining politically affiliated organizations. Nepali teachers have historically played a role in the country’s democracy movement, and political parties have sought to recruit teachers as activists. However, some education experts argue that teacher involvement in politics can undermine education quality.
The teachers are also protesting plans to grant local governments oversight of schools, arguing that such oversight should be the responsibility of the federal government. A constitutional change in 2015 shifted the governance of some public institutions, including schools, to local authorities to address concerns about centralization of power and resources in Kathmandu.
While many Nepalis support the bill for its potential to increase accountability among teachers, the protesting educators have made various demands, including handling promotion and transfer decisions at the provincial level, higher wages, a council for overseeing teacher training, and opportunities for contract-based teachers to secure permanent appointments.
The Nepal Teachers’ Association president, Kamala Tuladhar, stated that the government had not fulfilled its previous agreements with teachers regarding their concerns, leading to the protests. Acting Prime Minister Purna Bahadur assured that the government does not intend to undermine teachers’ morale but urged the protesters to inform the government of their demands. Talks between government leaders and the teachers have been described as “positive” but inconclusive, and the teachers have threatened to continue demonstrating if their demands are not met.