Striking Education Staff Fired by Myanmar Junta

By The Irrawaddy 6 May 2021

The military regime’s Education Ministry has dismissed 41 striking staff members, including 14 officials from the Higher Education Department.

Among those dismissed for refusing to work under the junta are a director-general, directors, deputy directors, officers and other ranks. The ministry’s notice says that those fired can appeal their dismissals within a six month period. The Higher Education Department oversees universities and colleges in Myanmar.

“The regime first put pressure on the head office to see if the staffers of universities overseen by the department are scared. I have no plans to return to work. I will find another job. I don’t want to work with them,” said one dismissed staffer of the Higher Education Department.

The department has nearly 200 staff members and over 60 of them have joined the civil disobedience movement (CDM).

Striking employees of the department were initially suspended from their duties, a tactic designed to pressure them into resuming their jobs. Some of those on strike did subsequently return to work.

Schools and universities across the country have been closed since last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The military regime has ordered all universities to reopen on May 5, and basic education schools on June 1.

But the regime’s attempt to restart education is meeting with increasing resistance, with anti-regime protesters calling for a boycott of schools and universities as part of the nationwide civil disobedience movement against the junta.

As well as firing striking employees of the Education Ministry, the junta has also filed incitement charges against dozens of teachers across the country for their participation in anti-regime protests.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry has been using different ways to pressure striking employees into returning to work.

Educators in Pathein District, Ayeyarwady Region said some officials have threatened to dismiss and arrest them if they join the CDM.

“Through school principals, [the regime] is putting pressure on teachers, saying striking teachers will be dismissed and prosecuted,” said a teacher from Kangyidaunt Township, Pathein.

Some 200 Education Ministry staffers in Kangyidaunt Township joined the CDM following the regime’s Feb. 1 coup, but more than 100 have returned to work after being threatened. Some 80 staff members in the township are still on strike.

In Hinthada District, Ayeyarwady Region the regime paid salaries to teachers for the month of April via group leader teachers in village-tracts. The regime then said that all those who have taken their salaries must return to work.

Around 80 teachers who want to stay on strike are planning to return their salaries for April to the township education office, but are worried that they will be arrested when they do so.

The junta is also not allowing education staff to resign, to retire early on medical grounds or to retire when they reach the normal retirement age of 60, according to education ministry staff.

Township administrative and education authorities have been making field visits to basic education schools across the country to check if teachers and staffers have returned to work, and to check that the number of staffers who have returned to work matches with the lists submitted to the Education Ministry.

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