More than 125,000 teachers have been suspended across Burma as the military regime retaliates against those who are standing up for democracy, specifically unions and teachers.
Teachers and university staff have been in the forefront of the fight for democracy in Burma since the military coup on 1 February. The Myanmar Teachers Federation (MTF) and other education unions have been part of the civil disobedience movement and have participated in strikes and demonstrations. Schools and universities, with few exceptions, have been shut down.
Education International General Secretary David Edwards cited the massive global trade union solidarity with the embattled workers of Burma. Although also recognising the importance of sanctions taken by some governments against officials of the junta, but he stressed the need for rapid action, saying:
“It will take international solidarity with pro-democracy resistance for a peaceful return to the democratic process,” he added.
As schools were set to reopen after being closed because of the Covid pandemic, it was reported by the MTF that over 125,000 teachers had been suspended without pay, by military authorities for their opposition to military rule. That is out of an estimated 430,000 teachers according to the most recent figures. One teacher, who wished to remain anonymous said, “
However, even as some teachers were forced to return to school, about 90 per cent of parents and students have been boycotting school enrolment and rallying behind the slogan, “No need for military slave education.”
The boycott is not only the expression of opposition to the military and its indoctrination. It is also prompted by concerns about safety as there are reports of security forces occupying schools.
Militarisation of schools is against the letter and the spirit of the Safe Schools Declaration that has been endorsed by more than 100 governments. Their numbers do not include Myanmar. There are also reports of army personnel taking over instruction, including showing students how to use guns as schools reopen despite the boycott.
In addition, more than 11,000 academics and university staff have been suspended for striking against the dictatorship. There is also a boycott by students. Students have been involved in organising demonstrations and have swelled their ranks. Like trade unionists and other democracy supporters, they have been attacked, detained, tortured, and killed.
The National Unity Government (NUG) is developing plans for a parallel system of education for schools and universities. The NUG Education Ministry indicated that it would be looking at providing education materials, home schooling and the use of alternative, private schools that are not linked to the military.
The NUG consists of leaders elected in the parliamentary elections of November 2020 and representatives of ethnic minorities which have been in conflict with central governments for decades. Many of them have been engaged in armed conflict with the Burmese military.
The NUG has submitted credentials to UN meetings, including the 2021 International Labour Conference and the World Health Assembly of the WHO. Neither the legitimate nor the military delegations have been seated. WHO has referred the question to the UN General Assembly.
Education international has established a Myanmar Education Workers Solidarity Fund. Contributions can be sent to:
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In addition, EI sent an urgent appeal to member organisations urging them to contact their governments concerning sanctions against the military junta and other solidarity actions.