Thousands suspended at Myanmar universities as junta targets education

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Thousands suspended at Myanmar universities as junta targets education

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Thousands suspended at Myanmar universities as junta targets education by : 12:04 pm On May 10, 2021

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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 told Reuters.

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 Feb. 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 United States 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 told Reuters.

As of Monday, more than 11,100 academic and other staff had been suspended from colleges and universities offering degrees, an official of the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation told Reuters, 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 cooperate to get the education system started again.

“Political opportunists do not wish to see such development by committing sabotage acts,” it said

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