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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nationwide school strike blamed on indifference

The students and teachers' wings of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) on Wednesday announced an indefinite strike in schools up to XII grade throughout the nation. Organising a joint press conference here, presidents of All Nepal National Independent Students Union-Revolutionary (ANNISU-R) and All Nepal Teachers Association (ANTA) said they were forced to take this harsh decision as the education minister remained indifferent to their demands for long.

However, the ongoing examinations of grade XI will not be hampered.

"As part of the strike, an hour-long chakka jam will be organised at Ratnapark on Saturday afternoon. An interaction will be organised with all stakeholders on the same day," ANNISU-R president Lekhnath Neupane said at the joint press conference.

All the regional education directorates will be padlocked from Sunday, all district education offices will be padlocked from May 21 and the Department of Education and Higher Secondary Education Council will be padlocked from May 22, he said.

He gave an ultimatum to the government to meet its demands within a week. "We will burn the effigies of the education minister and the secretary at the Ministry of Education and Sports if our demands are not met by then," Neupane said.

He said the ongoing lockouts at the account sections of the schools will also continue.

Neupane said the union was compelled to come up with stronger programmes after the education minister ruled out nationalisation of education, free education up to the secondary level and unity among the Left parties.

President of the ANTA Gunaraj Lohani said the ministry has failed to implement the agreement made with the association earlier.

"The education minister is giving irresponsible speeches to curb the agitation instead of solving the problem," he said.

Neupane said the union is ready to talk to the Private and Boarding Schools Organisation Nepal (PABSON) and National PABSON regarding the uniform fee structure throughout the nation and making stationary materials available at the schools at cheaper rates than it costs in the market or let the parents buy them wherever they want.

Asked about the implementation of the fee ceilings determined earlier, Neupane said that was not possible because the schools have raised fees by 32 per cent this year.

Neupane said some 400 private schools have been operating without registering at the District Education Offices in the Valley. Out of a total 8,500 private schools of the country, only 4,000 have been registered, he said.