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Tens of thousands of schoolteachers marched in Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu this week to protest an education reform law, leading to the closure of around 29,000 schools attended by millions of students across the country, the Associated Press reported.
The protests, which began last week, are centered on the School Education Bill, which opponents say would shift government-run schools to local control. They maintain that such a change would lower their status and scrap many temporary teacher positions.
One of the central issues is the role of politics in education.
Nepali teachers have historically been involved in the country’s political movements, particularly in the fight for democracy, according to the BBC. However, analysts and supporters of the bill said that teachers’ political affiliations can undermine the quality of education.
They added that banning political activities in educational institutions would help keep the focus on education.
The teachers are also protesting the shift of governance in public institutions, such as schools and hospitals, to local authorities following a constitutional change in 2015. While this move aimed to address concerns about the centralization of power and resources in Kathmandu, some teachers lamented that local officials were ill-equipped to manage schools effectively, resulting in a decline in the quality of education.
Teachers’ groups and government officials are negotiating over changes to the proposed legislation.
Even so, many educators threatened that they would hold more demonstrations in the capital if their demands were not addressed.