The authorities should not yield to pressure from the part-time teachers of TU to make them permanent through internal evaluation

Part-time teachers of Tribhuvan University are on strike on the premises of the varsity demanding, among others, that they be hired on contract basis and eventually made permanent ones. The part-time teachers say they will not back down from their demands this time, and the government is under tremendous pressure from them to make a political decision that might require amending the TU rules and regulations. The country's largest university has more than 2,200 part-time teachers, who make up about 70 per cent of its total teaching staff. These part-timers are said to cover most of the curriculum taught in the 62 constituent colleges of TU across the country. One of their grievances is that they are paid less than a third of what the permanent teachers get.

They are required to teach 150 periods for each subject but receive salary for just 70-80 classes, which is indeed gross injustice to them, hence their demand for equal pay for equal work at par with the permanent teachers or those hired on contract.

Tribhuvan University is continually mired in problems of one kind or the other largely because its rules and regulations are not implemented properly. It is supposed to call new vacancies for permanent teachers every six months, but the last time the university did so was seven years back. Hence, a huge pool of aspiring teachers take up work as part-timers hoping to become permanent ones as and when the university announces the vacancies.

The agitating teachers have now demanded that at least 50 per cent of the teachers who have been working on full time basis be made permanent. It is not good for the teachers to be out in the streets time and again to have the authorities look into their demands. But who is responsible for resolving their problem – the TU Service Commission or the government? While some of the demands put up by the parttime teachers look genuine, the authorities should not yield to pressure to make them permanent through internal evaluation. The regulations forbid it, and it is only right that competent teachers be selected through open competition. Only appointment of teachers through a rigorous competitive exam will improve the academic standard of the university. It is not for the government to be taking political decisions on teachers' demands. Deals reached between the government and the teachers in the past have only emboldened the latter to agitate, thinking they can have things their way if they put intense pressure on the government. Only this year in January, the government ended a week-long protest with an agreement that allows part-time teachers who have taught one academic year to be hired on contract basis by the respective colleges. It also agreed to look into their remuneration and opportunities to involve them in TU's academic activities. Such decisions cost money, and the Finance Ministry has little funds to spare. The way forward for TU is to make it a truly autonomous body in both word and spirit, free from any kind of political intervention. Hopefully, the Deuba government will not yield to pressure from the part-time teachers, as he did in the past, and allow the existing regulations to sort out the problem.

Meet deadline

Minister of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Pampha Bhusal on Monday inspected the 140 MW reservoir-based Tanahun Hydropower Project (THP) under construction and told the concerned authorities to complete the job within the deadline. JICA, ADB, European Investment Bank and the Nepal government have jointly agreed to invest US$ 505 million in it, which is expected to reduce energy imports from India during the four months of the dry season. Till date, Nepal has only one reservoir project – the 90 MW Kulekhani – which barely meets the local demand during the dry season.

Just like other government and donor-funded projects, the THP has also been facing common problems, such as local opposition over compensation for the land to be acquired and delay in constructing the all projects that take more than double the estimated time and cost. There is cost overrun when a project is delayed even by one. So, the minister has rightly stressed the need to finish the tasks without any delay.

At the same time, the government should also address the locals' concerns, especially the compensation issue of the indigenous communities who are being displaced due to the development work.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 1, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.