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President urges education law rethink in face of protests

Posted by pakin On January - 22 - 2015

President Thein Sein sent a message to the parliament on January 20 requesting that parliament reconsider the National Education Law following demands from students and teachers.

In his message to parliament, the president mentioned that there are stakeholders who demand decentralisation of education policies, the elimination of the National Educational Commission, the freedom to form students and teacher associations and the promotion of ethnic minority literature in schools.

The president also said that since the Ministry of Education has not been able to fulfil the demands of these stakeholders and because the law is still not enforced in practice, the legislation should consider amending it.

He sent the message on the same day that dozens of students started a 575-km march from Mandalay to Yangon in protest of the law. They renewed the protest as the government did not act to complete their demands within 60 days.

The Union parliament approved the National Education Law on September 30, 2014. Forty-six per cent of the law’s provisions were drawn the parliament, and remaining 54 per cent were drawn by the Ministry of Education.

On Tuesday dozens of young campaigners began an unauthorised cross-country protest march to the commercial hub Yangon, in a show of defiance by students, who have historically been at the forefront of political activism in the former junta-run nation.

Protesters said the statement – which suggested adding “inclusive education” to the law without elaborating on who would be affected – fell short of their demands.

“It’s not enough. We need a genuine way to change,” Phyo Phyo Aung, secretary of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, told AFP by phone from the central town of Kyaukse as around a hundred protesters made their way south from the second city of Mandalay.

Students, who staged almost a week of rallies in November over the law which they say curbs academic freedom, renewed their campaign Tuesday, saying that government had failed to meet their demands for talks.

They want the law altered to include free and compulsory education until children reach their early teens, permission to form student and teacher unions, and teaching in ethnic minority languages.

Myanmar was rocked by massive student-led demonstrations against authoritarianism in 1988 that propelled Aung San Suu Kyi into the democracy fight, but were ended with a brutal military crackdown.

Outright army rule ended in 2011 and the country has seen Western sanctions largely dropped in response to reforms, including releasing most political prisoners and allowing Suu Kyi into parliament.

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