2 Sep, 2020 / Surkhet
Gurans Rural Municipality, Dailekh, Karnali has fined its government school teachers for enrolling their own children in different private schools. On September 02, 2020 Hriti Foundation, a public policy think tank based in Birendranagar, Karnali hosted a virtual discussion program on the issue to start a wider public discourse on the intervention of the Gurans government and the future implications it holds for the people of Gurans as well as other municipalities on Nepal.
The program tried to dissect the move of the local government from the lens of right of freedom that has been granted to every Nepali by the Constitution of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, 2015, and also ask participants to lend their interpretations on whether the Constitution also sets limits on freedom of Nepali people regarding issues like where to send their kids to school. The discussion saw participation of government school teachers, young intellectuals, students and civil society members from Karnali.
There was a general agreement among participants that the decision taken by Gurans government is against the spirit of the constitution, with some participants going on to even term the move illegal. There was also an agreement on the table that when an individual enters into a contract with a public school as a teacher, the trade is between the labour of the teacher and the compensation from the school, and not between all freedoms of the teacher as an individual against compensation for his labour as a teacher.
Dhurba Adhikari, a public-school teacher, said that it was beyond practical for the local government to punish its teachers on the said ground. He argued that in doing so, the Gurans government challenged the Constitution by taking away the fundamental rights given by the constitution. He strongly urged the Gurans government to reconsider its decision.
Lokendra Subedi, another public-school teacher, seconded Adhikari’s opinions and termed the move unconstitutional. He added that the teachers fined should go to court and expressed hope that the court will deliver them justice by reversing the decision. He further added that a separate code of conduct could be made for the teachers (in consultation with them) but only by fully acknowledging their own freedoms as Nepali citizens. “The local government has no business discouraging citizens to send their kids to private schools when the state clearly allows private schools to operate in Nepal,” he added.
Diksha Sapkota, a local of Karnali, said that the decision makers did not think about why people prefer private schools to public schools in the first place. She argued that that if the quality of education improved in government schools then parents would themselves want to send their children to the best schools in the community. She argue that the government’s failure to offer best education in the community should not hold the children’s future hostage. Many other participants, including Bharat Gautam (a student leader), Bibek Khanal (a private school teacher), Bhupal Singh (school teacher), echoed her remarks.
Similarly, Shyam Bhandari, a member of Hiti Foundation, stressed that the decision should be revoked as soon as possible. Dinesh Gautam, president of Tanneri Chaso Surkhet and cofounder of Hriti Foundation, shared that a person should fulfill his/her contractual obligations no contract could limit his/her freedom as a Nepal in the first place. "It's a different matter what I do and what I want. My job is compulsion but aspirations are not government-defined compulsion; they are a matter of personal freedom,” he said.
Social activist Hari Upadhyaya had a different opinion about this decision. He opined that government policies are linked to the needs of citizens rather than their desires, and therefore the decision taken by Gurans government was not different from other decisions of the governments.
Associate Professor of Mid-western University and Chairman of Hriti Foundation Mr. Kamal Lamsal shared that as the recent decision of the Gurans government has raised wide criticisms and therefore it should be reconsidered. He added that the decision was not pragmatic, and called for larger discourse on the issue.
This discussion was moderated by Shyam Prasad Bhandari, co-founder of Hriti Foundation.