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Nepal: Education unionists mobilise during COVID-19 lockdown

The Nepal Teachers’ Association implemented the ‘Every Home a School’ campaign in response to the closure of education facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also developed proposals to the government on health and safety, social and political issues.

The Nepal Teachers’ Association (NTA) has responded to each step taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including implementing its ‘Every Home a School’ campaign. The first case of COVID-19 in Nepal was reported in Kathmandu on 24 January. Between January and March, the country took several steps to prevent a widespread outbreak of the disease. After the second case was confirmed on 23 March, a nationwide lockdown came into effect on 24 March. At first scheduled to end on 27 April, it was extended until 18 May.

Schools closed on 19 March

All schools have been closed since 19 March, forcing over eight million learners to stay home. In this extraordinary period, the NTA is cautiously and actively supporting teaching and learning activities, as well as efforts to protect the health and safety of students and educators.

“Establishing the trade union rights of and professional respect for Nepalese teachers is the major concern of NTA,” said the unions president, Rajendra Raj Paudel. “With that in mind, it has continuously contributed to the welfare of its members, as well as to education quality in the country, since its founding in 1990.”
Concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, the NTA immediately took steps to mobilise all levels of its structures, from local to federal committees.

Advocacy

On 28 March, Paudel sent an open letter to the country’s Prime Minister on the ‘National calamity caused by coronavirus and offering suggestions for solutions. The letter included prevention measures implemented by China, along with suggestions for actions in Nepal.
On 31 March, the NTA leader published an article in a newspaper, entitled ‘State of lockdown and its impact, application and results on students’.
From 3-5 April, the NTA Federal committee also met virtually to explore options in teaching and learning environments for teachers and students, all of whom are at home due to the lockdown. On 7 April, it publicised the decisions taken by the virtual meeting and urged its organisational structures to implement them as soon as possible.

‘Every Home a School’ campaign

On educational issues, the virtual meeting decided that:

  • All NTA structures at local level should coordinate teacher members to immediately contact students and their parents by using available means of communication, and to make  students feel comfortable about the lockdown and aware that it is crucial for their health and safety. They should also immediately construct a plan to implement the ‘Every Home a School’ campaign and apply it during lockdown.
  • NTA committees at all levels (federal, province, district, and local) should actively launch the ‘Every Home a School’ campaign. To guarantee the campaign’s success, members of all NTA local committees were called upon to coordinate with head teachers of the schools in his/her local area. Head teachers will be mobilised to connect with subject teachers. Subject teachers will coordinate with students via telephone or the Internet, help them study, and raise awareness on health and safety issues.
  • The local committee president will be the focal person to coordinate the implementation in his/her area of the ‘Every Home a School’ programme.
  • In the framework of the ‘Every Home a School’ teaching process, students should be told to plan their daily study routines. With the support of parents, teachers would also suggest activities outside learning, including yoga and exercises, indoor games, household tasks, watching motivational films, and writing.

Proposals

Concerning health and safety and social and political affairs, the NTA Federal Committee agreed that:

  • NTA members are requested to ensure the success of the lockdown as it is seen as being the most effective way to remain safe from COVID-19.
  • Concerned public authorities must take immediate action against people responsible for corruption in relation to the purchase of health equipment.
  • The government should make personal protective equipment immediately available to health workers and to test people suspected of having COVID-19 rapidly.
  • The government must continue to guarantee the treatment of affected patients in government hospitals.
  • The daily needs of low-income people must be appropriately addressed by public authorities.