Govt accepts students’ call for four-party talk

Delegates from the government and students met in January 28 at Nay Pyi Taw (Photo-EMG)

The government has accepted students’ call for a four-party talk between delegates from the government, parliament, the National Network for Education Reform (NNER) and students, according to a joint statement.

This agreement was reached shortly after a meeting between a delegation led by Aung Min, a minister in the President's Office, and student leaders from the Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE) in Nay Pyi Taw.

The joint statement includes four points: (1) There is to be a four-party meeting between the government, parliament, students and the NNER in Yangon on February 1; (2) the parties will seek a solution after holding discussions on 11 points suggested by student representatives; (3) they will coordinate constructive suggestions and continue discussing the remaining points; and (4) students are to stop holding protest marches as soon as the talks kick off.

“Basically, it can be said that this is a productive talk,” said Nanda Sit Aung, a student representative.

The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society led by Min Ko Naing signed the joint statement as a witness.

“We agree on some of the 11 points suggested by students in principle. But other points need to be discussed,” said Minister Aung Min, who led the government delegation.

The discussions leading up to the release of the joint statement began on the morning of January 28 and was interrupted briefly in the afternoon when Union Minister Aung Min met with the President. The talk resumed in the evening. Afterwards, both sides released a joint statement.

The eleven demands of the student leaders are: (1) to include teachers and student representatives in drawing up education policy, laws, bylaws and related laws; (2) to have freedom to establish student unions and teachers' unions and have these unions officially recognised; (3) the formation of a national education commission and the university coordination committee prescribed in the national education law; (4) to have greater autonomy in the governance of universities; (5) to amend the current exam system and university entrance system; (6) to adopt teaching methods that ensure that students develop independent thoughts; (7) to guarantee freedom to all national races and include mother-tongue-based multi-lingual education in the national education law ; (8) to implement an all-inclusive education system, particularly of students with disabilities; (9) to allow students expelled from the universities for their involvements in protests to return to their universities; (10) to designate 20 per cent of the country’s overall budget for educational purposes; (11) to implement a free, compulsory education system for the middle-school level students as well as primary school students.

Last November, students held a four-day strike in Yangon calling for amendments to the National Education Bill which was approved by the Union parliament and received the signature of the President. The students demanded that the government reconsider the bill within 60 days. When the government offered no response to the demands of the students, the Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE) staged a protest march from Mandalay to Yangon beginning on January 20.

The government officially invited the student protestors to a discussion. soon after a standoff between students and security forces in Thaungtha valley (Nanmyint valley) on January 27.