KATHMANDU, Sept 21: In utter disregard for the seven million students of public schools in the country, the government has amended the Education Act, allowing incompetent temporary teachers to secure permanent employment in government schools.
Parliament approved the Education Act amendment bill late on Tuesday evening. Just 156 members of the 601-member House were present on the occasion. The quorum for voting is 25 percent of the full House.
The bill was deliberately tabled in parliament in the absence of a large number of lawmakers. This was as per the plan of the education ‘mafia’ and the private sector schools, which are out to further weaken the government school system, said sources knowledgeable about the development.
The amendment bill was prepared by the Ministry of Education (MoE) under pressure from the CPN-UML, CPN (Maoist Center) and Nepali Congress, according to an aide to Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Gopal Man Shrestha. The aide, however, refused to be identified by named. “It was mainly lawmakers from CPN-UML and Maoist Center who insisted on allocating a higher proportion of seats for temporary teachers,” he added.
The amended act has a provision securing a higher percent of seats for temporary teachers through internal competition. Only around one-third of the seats are allocated through open competition. DPM Shrestha was under the influence of teacher unions affiliated to the different political parties, said the MoE sources.
“This means disqualified teachers will be appointed to government schools through a reservations syndicate,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, former president of the Guardians Association Nepal. “It will devastate the quality of teaching in public schools,” he added.
According to MoE, the government is going to hire about 30,000 teachers for community (government) schools. Among these, about 15,000 will be allocated through internal competition and about 15,000 through open competition. There are about 30,000 temporary teachers working in community schools.
“About 15,000 out of the total vacant positions will be allocated to temporary teachers,” said Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesman for MoE. “There are different categories of vacant seats that have remained unfilled in the last two decades,” he said. “If less than 15,000 temporary teachers pass the internal exams, the remaining seats will be added to the open competition category,” he added. “This is an attempt to settle the problem of temporary teachers once and for all.”
The government has already provided temporary teachers three opportunities in the last two decades to succeed through internal competition. However, a large number of them have failed time and again.
“This should not happen again. It’s not a long-term solution to the problem. It was just a sympathy move out of humane considerations and not predicated on the quality of education,” said education expert Bidya Nath Koirala. “The Education Act has clearly provisioned opening up vacancies for teachers each year. Why didn’t they activate this provision?,” he said. “One option for bringing in qualified temporary teachers could be to remove the age barrier in participating in the open competition for one time.”
Koirala further said what we are seeing is the consequence of bullying by political parties. “The Education Act needs to be approved by the President’s Office,” he said. “President Bidhya Devi Bhandari can send the amendment back to parliament for correcting it,” he added. “This is the final option.”
Meanwhile, educationist Mana Prasad Wagle, a member of the recently formed High Level Education Commission, has resigned from the post in protest against the approval of the controversial education act.
Kedar Bhakta Mathema, also a member of the High Level Education Commission and a former vice chancellor of Tribhuvan University, announced that he was quitting the commission because of his disagreement with the amended Act.
Prof Wagle said it was quite unreasonable to restrict the younger generation from entering the teaching profession. “There are 500,000 teaching license holders ready to participate in the open completion. But the amended Act has given priority to temporary teachers, allocating nearly 75 percent of seats to them although the eighth amendment of the Act provisioned 51 percent for open competition and 49 percent for internal competition,” he said. “So I resigned today from the commission.”