Teachers in Kathmandu, Nepal are entering the seventh month of a relay hunger strike demanding permanent contracts. The action was initiated at the end of last year and is still continuing, as there is no movement from the government.

According to the Temporary Teachers Struggle Committee which is organising the protest, the government agreed to regularise contracts through internal competition as long ago as 2006. However since then they have appointed new teachers and still left the contract teachers languishing in even lower pay and insecurity. As well as demanding that they be given the chance to gain a permanent contract, the hunger strikers are also demanding an end to the issuing of temporary contracts. The teachers have vowed to continue until their demands are met.

As we reported in February, there are at least 55,000 teachers in Nepal working on temporary contracts. As well as having low pay and no security, they face penury when they retire as there is no pension provision for them. To add injury to insult, the teachers campaigning peacefully earlier this year were attacked by security police with eight injured and many arrests.

In an echo of the strike in British Columbia, Canada, the Nepalese courts took the side of the temporary teachers, saying that the government must give them the same benefits as their permanently employed colleagues. However just as in Canada, the government has failed to obey the law. No doubt it feels emboldened by the World Bank, which advocates the mass use of temporary contracts as a way of disciplining teachers and cutting costs.