Thousands of teachers protest in Nepal against education bill, shutting schools across the country

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Schools for millions of students in Nepal were closed Friday as tens of thousands of teachers protested in the capital against an education reform bill in parliament.

Teachers have been demonstrating in Kathmandu since Wednesday against the School Education Bill while teachers' groups negotiate with government leaders over changes to the legislation.

The teachers oppose provisions that would shift government-run schools to local control, saying it would lower their status, and that would scrap many temporary teacher positions.

The teachers blocked the main street leading from the parliament building to key government ministries, disrupting traffic in the heart of the capital. Hundreds of police in riot gear blocked the road leading to parliament with barbed-wire barricades.

The teachers have threatened to bring more protesters to Kathmandu if their demands are not addressed.

“Our key demand is we teachers should be kept under the central government like any other government professionals and not in the control of local authorities which are all controlled by politics,” said Badri Dhungel, a high school teacher who was participating in the protest.

“We should get equal pay, status and other facilities and benefits like civil servants,” he said.

The protest had led to the closure of about 29,000 public schools attended by millions of students across the country. Private schools remained open.

The protesters briefly scuffled with riot police on Thursday, but no major violence was reported.