Kathmandu: Recently, in one of the events, chairman of CPN (Maoist Center) Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ made a statement on why teachers should do politics.
“If teachers do not engage in active party politics then the party structure of entire Nepal will be weakened,” he said.
“Teachers should actively engage in politics for political change. They have contributed to every political party of Nepal.”
This statement by Prachanda received widespread criticism. Many people and cadres of different political parties ridiculed him. Prachanda clearly does not want teachers to stay away from politics. And as a matter of fact, many teachers in Nepal do active politics as Prachanda wanted.
Teachers, except for a handful, are divided along party lines. Unions of teachers are formed as sister organizations of political parties. Teachers take part in political gatherings of political parties without taking formal leave. If anyone tries to raise questions of accountability, they dismiss the question using their union force.
Nepal has around 3,00,000 government teachers and among them over 2,00,000 are involved in different associations affiliated to various political parties.
According to data by the respective associations, about 83,000 teachers are associated with Nepal Teachers Association (affiliated to Nepali Congress), 80,000 teachers with Nepal National Teachers Association (CPN-UML) and Unified All Nepal Teachers Association (CPN Maoist Center) has a total of 40,000 teachers.
The teachers have been promoted, honored, and received many other lavish facilities for serving political leaders and parties. They also get transfers according to their wishes.
Interestingly, all these associations have ensured their presence from the central to the local level.
For a very long time, political parties have been assigning those teachers to involve in various political tasks, and they have been easily accepting it. Accepting those political tasks has helped teachers to fulfill their interests and demands.
“The teachers have been promoted, honored, and received many other lavish facilities for serving the political leaders and parties. They also get transfers according to their wishes,” said educationist Bidhyanath Koirala, former head of the Department of Education at Tribhuvan University.
Political parties also have an interest in enrolling teachers into their party.
“For political parties, teachers are unpaid cadres who can do big things for the party’s benefit. They can convince general people and attract them to the party they follow. Likewise, they can also call their students to participate in the protest,” added Koirala.
“Although the Education Plan 2076 prohibited teachers from doing party politics, it recognized the Confederation of Nepalese Teachers, the umbrella body of all the teacher’s associations. This has eased teachers’ involvement in party politics.”
In 2012, India’s Bombay High Court stated that education should be kept away from party politics. Alongside the decision, the court also suspended a teacher for being associated with a political party. Can we expect such a statement and action from Nepal’s court? Educationalist Koirala says “No”.
He said, “From the government institution to the judiciary, everyone has a political influence. The top-level human resources over there are all political appointments.”
“So in this context, it is difficult to separate teachers from party politics.”
In a way, both sides benefit from each other. This is why it would be difficult to break the nexus. The involvement of teachers has had several negative effects on the entire education sector and students’ lives.
“The teachers who are associated with any of the political parties will undoubtedly teach the students to be politically biased,” said Koirala. “Moreover, they will also make students realize that their future will be at risk if they do not stick with a political party.”
When did it all start?
Teachers would be involved in politics before multiparty democracy was institutionalized in the country but the situation was different then. They used to make people aware of democracy. But gradually, things changed.
Earlier it was for the country’s freedom but later as time passed it turned out to be for self-interest. However, none of the teacher’s associations admit that they do party politics.
“Teacher’s associations are not supposed to be involved in any kind of party politics. They are the ones who bridge the gap between teachers and political leaders,” said Rajendra Raj Paudel, president at Nepal Teachers Association (Nepali Congress).
“The major duty of all the teacher associations is to put forward the ethical needs and demands of teachers and the entire education sector to political leaders.”
Representatives from other teacher’s associations echo Paudel.
“No teachers shall be involved in party politics,” Nim Bahadur KC, secretary of Unified All Nepal Teachers Association, said. “The associations should focus on enhancing the education sector of the country.”