21 Jan President urges education law rethink in face Mandalay march

Written by AFP Published in Education Read 2936 times
About hundred of Student activists holding flags walk during the protest march from Mandalay to Yangon demanding an amendment to 'National Education Bill' due to be passed by parliament on January 20, 2015. Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima
About hundred of Student activists holding flags walk during the protest march from Mandalay to Yangon demanding an amendment to 'National Education Bill' due to be passed by parliament on January 20, 2015. Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima

YANGON (AFP) - President U Thein Sein has called on the Myanmar parliament to rethink aspects of a new education bill in the face of renewed student protests, state-backed media said January 21, as activists vowed to continue demonstrations.

The President asked lawmakers to reconsider some sections of the controversial bill, saying amendments would "contribute towards peace and stability, allowing students to pursue their education peacefully", according to an information ministry statement published in the Global New Light of Myanmar.

On January 20 dozens of young campaigners began a cross-country protest march to Yangon, without first receiving permission, in a show of defiance by students, who have historically been at the forefront of political activism in Myanmar.

Protesters said the statement, which suggested adding "inclusive education" to the law without elaborating on who would be affected, fell short of their demands.

"It's not enough. We need a genuine way to change," Ma Phyo Phyo Aung, secretary of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, told AFP by phone from the central town of Kyaukse as around a hundred protesters made their way south from the second city of Mandalay.

Students, who staged almost a week of rallies in November over the law which they say curbs academic freedom, renewed their campaign on January 20, saying that government had failed to meet their demands for talks.

They want the law altered to include free and compulsory education until children reach their early teens, permission to form student and teacher unions, and teaching in ethnic minority languages.

Myanmar was rocked by massive student-led demonstrations against authoritarianism in 1988 that propelled Daw Aung San Suu Kyi into the democracy fight, but were ended with a brutal military crackdown.

Students plan to take around two weeks to complete the walk and then set up protest camp in Yangon.

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