Nepali student unions are long used to shutting down education institutions. Now even teachers and staffers seem to be getting into it, as is evidenced at Kathmandu University in Dhulikhel, which had thus far been spared of such disruptive shutdowns.
KU professors and staffers have shut down classes of different faculties and departments, demanding recognition of their organizations—Kathmandu University Professor Association (KUPA), and Kathmandu University Staff Association (KUSA)—from the university. They have even been padlocking department and dean offices for the past three weeks.
The university, established in 1991, had long been untouched by party politics before it gave in to the demand for the opening of student unions affiliated to different political parties. Among the sufferers are foreign students, who constitute 20 percent of the total university students.
Maisha Spriha of Bangladesh is a student of pharmacy. She expresses her frustration with the shutdown: “It’s hard on us students. To be honest, it’s hard on the teachers as well. If this shutdown brings positive changes in the university, then we are fine with it. But we can’t say if that’ll be the case.”
The associations claim the shutdown is aimed at safeguarding the interests of not only teachers and staffers, but also of the students. They are demanding that the university ‘honor’ past agreements of recognizing the associations.
“On August 30 last year, KU’s executive council agreed to grant recognition to both the organizations. It also agreed to address our three demands—allowing KUPA’s president to take part in the university’s executive council meeting, ensuring transparency in administrative works of the university, and building mechanism to guarantee career growth of teachers and employees at the varsity,” says Bed Mani Dahal, president of KUPA.
He lambasts the executive council for not addressing those demands.
Deepak Dahal, a manager at the university, says students are suffering due to the teachers strike. “It is difficult to immediately fulfill their demands. They can only be addressed via the university senate in the presence of the prime minister and education minister,” says Dahal.
Meanwhile, students are mostly expressing their frustrations through social media.
“The university administration is sleeping like a log, and the professors and employees have resorted to protests. Students are suffering,” writes Kokish Busal, a student of mechanical engineering, on Facebook. Likewise, Kiran Gyawali, a law student, writes: “Maybe we run a public hearing with the vice chancellor, registrar, KUPA/KUSA members, and students to find a way out. How long should it go like this? There are rumors that classes will not reopen until January 27.”
“The concerned authorities should resolve it as soon as possible and keep us students out of it. They may choose to close the administration, but why cancel classes?” asks Spriha.
Bigen Aryal, a computer science student at the university, says he does not know who is right and who is wrong. “We only know that the conflict between the management and teachers is troubling all the students,” he says.