The mass resignation of more than 100 headteachers has plunged Nepal's crumbling education system into crisis.
The heads resigned in protest at the ineffectiveness of local education officials in protecting schools against the pressures from the Maoist-affiliated All Nepal National Free Students Union (Revolutionary). The organisation wants government schools to waive admission fees. But heads say that they cannot run schools without collecting some money from students as the government only pays teachers' salaries and schools have to rely on student contributions to pay ancillary staff and to fund resources.
Nepal Teachers' Association spokesman Krishna Poudel explained:
"We have been facing a double hurdle. The ANNFSU (R) will not allow us to collect fees but the government has made education free up to the tenth grade without meeting the basic requirements of schools or salaries for all staff. We cannot and will not run schools without some basic minimum fee from the students."
The resignations come after a disastrous year for education in the country. Private schools have been specifically targeted by the ANNFSU (R) who have attacked school principals, beaten and publicly humiliated teachers and set fire to school premises. They claim that the government will be forced to raise standards in the state schools if the private schools close. Meanwhile, private schools, in fear of violent attacks, have been closing in droves.