Thousands suspended at Myanmar universities
May 10 2021 11:59 PM
Students hold a banner and flash the three-finger salute as they take part in a protest against Myan
Students hold a banner and flash the three-finger salute as they take part in a protest against Myanmar’s junta, in Mandalay, Myanmar May 10, 2021. (REUTERS)

Reuters/ Yangon

More than 11,000 academics and other university staff opposed to Myanmar’s ruling junta have been suspended after going on strike in protest against military rule, a teachers’ group said.
The suspensions come as the resumption of universities after a year closed due to the coronavirus epidemic prompts a new confrontation between the army and the staff and students who are calling for boycotts over the February 1 coup. “I feel upset to give up a job that I adored so much, but I feel proud to stand against injustice,” said one 37-year-old university rector, who gave her name only as Thandar for fear of reprisals.
“My department summoned me today. I’m not going. We shouldn’t follow the orders of the military council.”
A professor on a fellowship in the US said she was told she would have to declare opposition to the strikes or lose her job.
Her university authorities had told her every scholar would be tracked down and forced to choose, she said.
As of yesterday, more than 11,100 academic and other staff had been suspended from colleges and universities offering degrees, an official of the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation said, declining to be identified for fear of reprisals. Reuters was not immediately able to ascertain exactly what proportion of total staff that figure represents.
Myanmar had more than 26,000 teachers in universities and other tertiary education institutions in 2018, according to the most recent World Bank data.
Students and teachers were at the forefront of opposition during nearly half a century of military rule and have been prominent in the protests since the army detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and halted a decade of tentative democratic reforms.
Many teachers, like medics and other government workers, have stopped work as part of a civil disobedience movement that has paralysed Myanmar.
As protests flared after the coup, security forces occupied campuses in the biggest city, Yangon, and elsewhere.
A spokesman for the junta did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on the suspensions. The junta-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said teachers and students should co-operate to get the education system started again.
“Political opportunists do not wish to see such development by committing sabotage acts,” it said.
It was not clear to what extent the 11,000 staff suspensions would hamper efforts to reopen colleges but many students are also boycotting classes.
At the public West Yangon Technological University, the student’s union published a list of 180 staff who had been suspended to hail them as heroes.
“I don’t feel sad to miss school,” said 22-year-old Hnin, a student of the Yangon University of Education. “There’s nothing to lose from missing the junta’s education.”
Zaw Wai Soe, education minister in a rival National Unity Government set up underground by opponents of the junta, said he was touched that students had told him they would only return “when the revolution prevails”.
Doubts have also been raised over the return to school of younger students, with institutions now taking registrations for the start of a new year.
There are nearly 10mn school students in the country of 53mn.
Protesters daubed “We don’t want to be educated in military slavery” at the entrance of a school in the southern town of Mawlamyine last week, a phrase that has been echoed at demonstrations across Myanmar by students.

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