Education International
Education International

EI General Secretary at the congress of Nepalese teachers: "Investment in Quality Public Education For All is the Key to Recovery"

published 22 April 2009 updated 22 April 2009

"We must go on the offensive. In every country, in every region and globally. We must turn crisis into opportunity. For we have a powerful case to make, and to show that investment in quality public education for all is the key to recovery, the key to eradicate poverty, and the key to democratic development."

This was the key message delivered by EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen at the second congress of the Teachers' Union of Nepal (TUN) on April 21.

The TUN was established in 2001 to facilitate the dialogue between the teaching profession and the public authorities of Nepal. It is mainly composed of the EI member organisations in Nepal,the Nepal National Teachers' Association (NNTA) and the Nepal Teachers' Association (NTA), which represents more than 70% of the country’s teaching force.

More than 500 delegates discussed the pressing challenges facing the country’s education system. Overcrowded classrooms, staggering drop-out rates, and an increasing divide between public and private education.

A recent agreement between the government of Nepal and the international donor community, including the World Bank, to transfer the management of schools to local community groups is meeting strong resistance. The education unions fear that it will lead to an influx of unqualified para-teachers and a further deterioration of teachers’ terms and employment conditions.

The country urgently needs to train and recruit 64 000 teachers, said outgoing TUN president Keshav Prasad Bhattarai, who warned government representatives and leaders of the political parties present at the congress that the unions may have no choice but to resort to industrial action.

Education quality is suffering badly, particularly in remote areas where primary school classes with more than 300 pupils are no exceptions.

In his address to the congress participants, the EI General Secretary reminded the Nepalese government that the right of every child to education is the right to quality education and the right to a qualified teacher.

He said that Education International fully understands that as the resources needed to achieve Education For All are falling short, Nepal will continue to depend on the commitment of the international community to help achieve its educational goals.

He assured them that “in our contacts with lending agencies, we insist extra funding be made available for Nepal and other low-income countries to help them to reduce the effects of the global economic crisis, to aid in the recovery of their economies and meet the Millennium Development Goals.”

Van Leeuwen also addressed the country’s turbulent past:

“Many times we had to intervene when Nepalese governments choose to ignore core labour standards and deny our profession the right to organize and bargain collectively,” he said. “And we should never forget all those teachers who lost their lives as victims of violence and repression. But this was the past. Now we look at the future and at the role you can play in building a democratic and prosperous society with equal opportunities for everybody.”