Our union, the Institutional Schools Teachers' Union (ISTU) brings together teachers and education support personnel working in privately funded schools in Nepal. Our mission is to improve the working conditions of our members, ensure their rights are respected, and their important role recognized. Our work is essential, but it is never easy. Our members face unfair treatment and injustice every day in a system that resists change.
The devastating impact of the pandemic
The outbreak of COVID-19 had a profound impact on the education support personnel (ESP) working in private schools in Nepal. Many have been struggling to make ends meet since the pandemic began.
Despite their hard work and dedication, many ESPs have still not received their salaries for the pandemic period. This has put them in a difficult financial situation, leaving them unable to pay their bills or support their families.
Moreover, many ESPs have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. This has left them without a source of income and struggling to survive. The situation is particularly dire for those who were employed on a part-time basis or who worked in non-teaching roles. They were the first to be let go by the schools.
Even those who managed to keep their jobs have not been spared hardship. The salary of school bus drivers has been cut by 75%, and teachers have seen their salaries cut by 50%. Making ends meet has become increasingly difficult.
To make matters worse, the union of school owners tried to impose home leave without payment, but our union rejected this measure and mobilized to fight for the rights of ESP and teachers. We persisted and were successful.
The tip of the iceberg
The pandemic has exacerbated many of the old challenges faced by education support personnel in private schools. However, even before Covid, the situation was far from tenable.
Many ESPs in private schools suffer terrible working conditions. They are often paid low salaries, which leads to demotivation and a lack of job satisfaction. Opportunities for career advancement are scarce, further undermining motivation. As many ESP in private schools are hired on a contract basis, the lack of job security is a source of constant concern and anxiety. Worse still, ESPs in private schools are often required to perform multiple tasks, such as administrative work, cleaning, and maintenance, leading to burnout and exhaustion.
Another challenge ESP have to deal with is the lack of adequate training, which makes it difficult for them to perform their duties effectively and causes frustration and a lack of confidence.
ESPs in private schools feel undervalued and underappreciated, as their contributions to the school are not always recognized or acknowledged.
Widespread gender discrimination
Women ESP in private schools in Nepal endure considerably worse conditions compared to their male peers. They often receive lower wages than their male colleagues for the same work, in a clear example of gender discrimination in the workplace. Many times, they also do not receive benefits provided to other employees, such as long leave, maternity leave, or sick leave.
Harassment and discrimination in the workplace are common. Many women ESPs are subjected to verbal and physical abuse, gender-based violence, and sexual harassment.
Equal opportunities for career growth and promotion are hard to come by, mainly because women ESP are not provided with adequate training and development opportunities. Women in education support roles also have extremely limited participation in decision-making, their voices silent during school meetings.
Our union strongly believes that all education support personnel must have equal opportunities, salary, and benefits, irrespective of gender or other defining factors. We need to acknowledge the work and contribution of women ESP in private schools and work toward creating a more inclusive and equitable educational environment. This is one of our union’s core objectives.
The struggle for the rights and the fair treatment of all education support personnel in private schools in Nepal continues. Difficult as it may be, the resilience and dedication of our colleagues in education support roles give hope and determination to keep pushing for a brighter future.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.