Students Cry Foul Over Education Ministry Proposals

By Nobel Zaw 27 February 2015

RANGOON — Nine representatives from the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) met with Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann and the Lower House Draft Law Committee in Naypyidaw on Friday, expressing concerns over what they believe to be an attempt by the Ministry of Education to derail reforms to the National Education Law.

On Feb. 17, state-run media published a draft bill amending the law which originated from the Ministry of Education, alongside the bill agreed upon during earlier four party discussions between the government, parliamentary representatives, students and the National Network for Education Reform. Students were told on Friday that both bills were now before parliament.

Nanda Sit Aung, a member of the Action Committee for Democratic Education, said that the students had told lawmakers an agreement over amendments to the law had been violated.

“There were two draft bills. One has been named as a proposal by students and the NNER, but in fact it was the one agreed to by the four party talks,” Nanda Sit Aung told The Irrawaddy.

Dr Arkar Moe Thu, a university lecturer and member of the NNER, said that during a Feb. 14 four-party meeting, the ministry presented a draft bill that was eventually withdrawn after the government agreed to concede to the demands of students and NNER representatives.

Arkar Moe Thu told The Irrawaddy he now suspects that the government’s concessions were a ploy to stop nationwide student demonstrations, which had been gathering momentum since the beginning of the ABFSU-led protest march from Mandalay to Rangoon on Jan. 20.

“I think they had been ordered to finish the decision on Feb. 14 in order to try to stop the student protests,” he said. “The amendment bill was agreed and signed by the four parties but now they are being dishonest.”

The ABFSU protest group announced last week that it would resume its march to Rangoon on Mar. 1, ahead of matriculation exams for high school students.

Nanda Sit Aung said that protests had been planned to prevent disruptions to student examinations.

This article was edited on March 2, 2015 to correct the following: Dr. Arkar Moe Thu is a university lecturer, not as previously reported, a university student.