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Fate of temporary teachers hangs in balance

NIRJANA SHARMA

KATHMANDU, Feb 7

Gopal Koirala, a temporary teacher at Sharada Secondary School in Ramechhap, retired after 21 years of service. But rather than joy, the retirement has brought him face-to-face with host of problems because, unlike other state employees, he is not entitled to retirement benefits like gratuity, pension or provident fund.

Appointed as a temporary teacher at the Parsa-based community school, which falls under the Ministry of Education (MoE), in 1991, Koirala was asked to leave on grounds of age in 2012 when he was few months short of turning 60.

A permanent resident of Sindhuli, the retirement without pension has left Koirala dependent on the income of his two sons who are already struggling to meet the needs of the five-member family while supporting their own studies.

(Gopal Koirala, 62, (left) accompanies his fellows at the peaceful relay hunger strike in Shantibatika, Kathmandu on 51st day on Friday. After serving for 21 years, Koirala received forceful retirement empty-handed two years ago. A delay in amendment of Education Act-1971 to give permanent status and golden handshake to 17,000 provisional teachers has left their fate undecided. Photo- Nirjana Sharma)

“After receiving the departure letter, I applied for facilities bestowed on state employees upon their retirement, but the district education office asked me contact the authorities in Kathmandu for more information,” says the former English teacher.

Koirala made enquiries at the Department Civil Personnel Record, but the officials there turned him away saying that there is no such legal provision for temporary teachers like him.
Similar is the suffering of Buddhi Bahadur Rayamajhi, 63, who was one of first from his district Arghakhanchi to complete master´s degree in English. Though he began his teaching career from Durga Bhawani School, Gulmi in 1984, Rayamajhi was appointed a temporary teacher by the government in 1996 at Bhagwati Higher Secondary School, Arghakhanchi.

But he is now in dire straits because of the lack of government policy regarding retirement facilities such as pension, provident amounts, sick allowances, among others, for temporary teachers.

His six-member family is now solely dependent on the income of his wife Bijula Rayamajhi, a lower-secondary level teacher. Most of her earnings go toward the education of their three daughters and a son.

Like Koirala and Rayamajhi, many other temporary teachers have received an empty-handed retirement in the last few years.

Thousands of other teachers await the same fate but many still hope that the government will finally do justice to their labor, says Nirendra Kunwar, chairperson of the Temporary Teacher´s Struggle Committee.

Series of protests and agreements
It has been years since the temporary teachers began protest demanding permanent status or a guarantee of facilities equivalent to the permanent teachers. After a series of protests in front of MoE and the offices of major political parties, the ministry for the first time in 2011 indicated that it would begin the process to address the 15 years-old issues. As part of the effort, the ministry initiated the process of amending Education Act 1971.

In March 2012, the teachers and government penned a four-point agreement to end the indefinite padlocking of community schools. The authority had made written commitment to start the process of addressing the teachers´ woes.

The Supreme Court verdict
On February 2010, the Supreme Court had issued a ruling directing the government bodies to develop necessary laws to guarantee facilities to the temporary teachers on par with the permanent ones. Though the MoE forwarded the draft amendment of the Education Act, the verdict remains only partially implemented.

The amendment to be approved by the parliament
The government in 2011 forwarded the draft amendment to the Education Act 1971 to the parliament. But the process stalled as it was never tabled in the parliament, which was itself got dissolved with the demise of the CA on May 28, 2013.

To address the temporary teachers´ woes, the draft had made various provisions such as the automatic permanency of teachers recruited before 2008 after they pass an internal selection process; a golden handshake of Rs 100,000 to Rs 500,000, depending on the duration of their service, to those who opted voluntary retirement, among others.
The Baburam Bhattarai-led government had forwarded 13 ordinances to the President´s Office after CA dissolution, but the Education Act was not prioritized for amendment through ordinance.

If the education experts are to be believed, the MoE failed to lobby for the amendment. “The MoE failed to take strong stand,” said Educationist Mana Wagle.

What next
Of the total 26,000 temporary teachers, as many as 9,000 are likely to get permanent status through the vacancy announced last year by the Teachers´ Service Commission. However, the fate of 17,000 temporary teachers remains undecided.

At a time when the Education Regulation has said that the tenure of all temporary teachers would automatically end on April 13 this year, the last date in Nepali calendar 2070 BS, the government has no better option than amending the education regulation to continue with the provisional teachers, according to the officials at the MoE.

While the teachers´ relay hunger strike has entered its 52 days in the capital, the regulation amendment process can proceed only after the formation of a new government, said MoE Joint Secretary Khagaraj Baral.

“The provision to end the provisional teacher´s term was made with an assumption that the Teacher´s Service Commission would have appointed permanent teachers through free competition, which could not work as fast as expected,” he added.
Meanwhile, the teachers involved in the peaceful protest said they chose relay hunger strike as a medium to convey their dissatisfaction to the government as they did not want to hamper the regular classes of community schools, said the struggle committee Chairman Kunwar.

Source- Republica DailyLink- http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=69233
Published on 2014-02-08 05:30:43
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About nirjanasharma

Journalist.

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