Kathmandu, May 17, 2007

All private and government schools in the country remained closed today at the call of teachers’ and students’ unions affiliated with the Maoists.

Agitators held rallies and corner meetings throughout the country on the first day of the indefinite school strike. The agitating unions said in Kathmandu that the strike would continue despite the government’s call for talks.

“We want the government to first implement all previous agreements,” said Mukunda Gautam, president of Institutional School Teachers Union (ISTU) and a member of the Educational Republican Forum (ERF).

The government has formed a three-member team comprising Janardan Nepal, the director general of the Department of Education, Sushil Pandey, the director of the Regional Education Directorate and Laba Prasad Tripathi, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education and Sports, for talks. The team has urged the agitators to sit for talks at 11 am tomorrow.

“We will only agree on ministerial-level talks and not secretarial-level ones,” Gautam said. “The strike will be in force even if the talks take place. We are ready to work extra hours in the future to make up for the losses of the students,” he said. About 7.8 million students across the country are affected by the strike. Meanwhile, representatives of PABSON and NPABSON met Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

PABSON president Umesh Shrestha said they requested the PM to resolve the problem soon. “He assured us that he would meet the education minister and discuss the matter with him,” Shrestha said.

Nepal’s 5-point formula to end deadlock

CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal today came up with a five-point formula to end “cold relations” between the eight political parties and unitedly move towards constituent assembly elections.

Addressing a programme organised to mark the 14th death anniversary of the party’s former general secretary Madan Kumar Bhandari and the organisation chief Jivraj Ashrit, Nepal said the political deadlock would end if the parties evolved a common stance on monarchy, found ways to return seized property, brought an end to the parallel or non-government military structure (by integrating Maoist combatants in the State’s security wings or in society), declared the date for holding constituent assembly elections and addressed the issues of the Madhesis, Janajatis, women and the Dalits by accepting the principle of proportional representation system.

Bhandari and Ashrit were killed in a road accident in Chitwan’s Dashdhunga in 1993. “I met Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala this morning and suggested him that those are the points that may help improve relations among the parties and address the issues raised by various communities,” Nepal said.