Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Anger after union teachers transferred from Yangon

University teachers have accused the Ministry of Education of transferring them from Yangon to regional universities because of their involvement in union activities.

After months of delays, the ministry issued transfer orders for university staff on June 17.

More than 20 university teachers active in teacher unions at universities in Yangon Region where transferred outside of the city, said U Arkar Moe Thu, head of the teachers’ union at Dagon University.

The teachers were transferred to universities in Monywa in Sagaing Region, Pathein and Hinthada in Ayeyarwady Region, Sittwe in Rakhine State, Taungoo in Bago Region, and Myeik and Dawei in Tanintharyi Region, he said.

“The government has sent them to remote areas to break down the teacher unions but I think it will just mean they will do their activities in those places instead,” he said, adding that all the vacant positions in the unions had since been filled through new elections.

However, senior university officials said last week the transfers were ordered according to ministry guidelines and had nothing to do with involvement in union activities.

"If someone believes they were transferred [incorrectly] they can complain but I haven’t received any reports of dissatisfaction with the transfers,” said U Khine Myae, the rector of East Yangon University and a former deputy director of the Higher Education Department said.

He said the process was transparent, as teachers already know in advance that they are in line to be transferred.

But U Arkar Moe Thu said the transfer process was prone to corruption, with university teachers paying to receive better postings or not be transferred, and troublesome teachers given less prestigious positions.

In mid-June, just before the release of the transfers, the Myanmar Teachers Federation, which was formed by teachers’ unions from 12 universities on May 28, released a statement calling on the ministry to ensure the process is transparent and fair. The federation has also been a major critic of the ministry-backed National Education Law, which is in the final stages of being approved by parliament.

But U Khine Myae rejected suggestions that the transfers were used as a “punishment”.

He said the transfers were based on teachers’ performance as rated by their colleagues and students.

An official from Ministry of Education in Nay Pyi Taw, who asked not to be named, also rejected the accusations but declined to comment further.

Among those transferred was U Than Htike. Head of the teachers’ union at East Yangon University for the past two years, he is now a deputy lecturer in the History Department at Pathein University. He previously spent nine years at East Yangon University.

“I think the government has done this to weaken our [union] activities, even though they made it appear like it is in line with their policy,” he said

He said four of the seven executive committee members from East Yangon’s union have been transferred to other universities.