Politicisation of schools and the education sector in general is a widely regretted issue in Nepal. Consider for instance the following remark: “Currently Nepal suffers from hyper-politicisation that affects all aspects of life. Teachers’ unions, students’ organisations, and educational institutions, even at the primary level are not exempt from political activism, often quite unrelated to genuine educational issues. All political parties in Nepal are guilty of such politicisation of education.” Or just look at the array of teacher’s and student’s unions in the country, each affiliated with a political party, competing with each other for influence, and this aspect of Nepali politics becomes clear. There are many, and when the party orders school lockdown, they make it happen!
Here is another example of the commentary illustrating how politicised many fell the school sector is in Nepal: “The politicization in almost all the sectors owing to the political parties’ vestigial interest has heavily affected their (sectors’) quality attainments. As for education, the teachers are found heavily engaged in political activities, neglecting their responsibilities. The government does not properly follow the existing rules and regulations when recruiting teachers. There are more than 20,000 temporary teachers recruited without uniform method. Their performance remains questionable because of the insecure nature of their job. They should be made permanent [teachers] using a healthy competition system through the Education Commission that is entrusted with the appointment of teachers. The School Sector Reform Program (SSRP) which is a highly ambitious program being funded by major donor agencies with the aim of addressing Millennium Development Goal (MDG) II, has suffered the most due to government’s undue interference in its implementation and will continue to be affected until the government becomes serious and responsible…”.
Teachers are posted as party workers or sometimes simply as a reward, and absenteeism is widespread among not only unqualified but also unmotivated teachers, knowing that they might be out of a job when a new government takes over. Some of those posted as temporary teachers are not even teachers at all but handed out the job anyway. Is politicisation of schools and the education sector in general a new thing in Nepal? Not at all. Teachers and students were at the front line also during the prolonged activism against the Panchayat System. For more background on the critical role of teachers and students already at that time (notably 1970s and 1980s), check out the references below. Indeed, we have met several MPs who have told us how they were party workers in disguise back then, working as teachers but mobilising students and the community behind their party at the same time. Teachers can have a lot of influnce in a rural community; students can provide a lot of muscle and numbers; and so parties naturally have an interest in getting both on their side.
Book references above:
Hacchethu, Krishna, 2002, Party Building in Nepal – Organization, Leadership and People, Mandala Book Point, Kantipath, Kathmandu (see especially pages 65 forward)
Shaha, Rishikesh, 1992, Politics in Nepal 1980-1991: Referendum, Stalemate and Triumph of People Power, Delhi, Manohar Publishers and Distributors (see especially pages 50 forward)