Thursday, December 27, 2007

Declaration of Youth and Students in the Asia-Pacific Region on Education and Employment (Part I)

Approved by all 30 participants of the Regional Youth Camp: You Act on Education and Employment held in Dhulikhel, Nepal on December 12-15, 2007

We, the young people from the Asia-Pacific region, gathering in solidarity with one another during the four-day (December 12-15) “You Act on Education and Employment Youth Camp” organized by the Asian Students Association (ASA) and host by All Nepal National Free Students' Union (ANNFSU) in Dhulikhel, Nepal, recognize the impacts of globalization and neo-liberalism on the education and employment of the youth and students in our region.

We recognize the impacts of the social and political crisis being experienced by our countries that have aggravated the condition of the youth and students. These include the fascism and repression being experienced by the peoples of Burma, Malaysia and Pakistan from their respective countries, and the state of undeclared Martial Law in the Philippines and militarization of the Northeast region, India. We know that minorities and oppressed nationalities are experiencing discrimination in their countries from their governments. We demand that the national emergency be withdrawn with all democratic rights returned to the people of Bangladesh as well as a transparent and credible election to be held to transfer the power to a democratically-elected government. We strongly condemn the Malaysian government for its repressive crackdown on the democratic movement and the minorities struggling for their rights and freedoms.

We also have expectations on the government of Nepal to respect the demands of the people after the successful April Revolution, which has led in the successful overthrow of their kingship and is in the process of nation-building and unifying their people for a future Democratic and Federal Republic of Nepal through the process of Constitution Assembly Election. We also demand that Burma saffron revolution led by Buddhist monks, students and people, democratization should be ensure through genuine dialogue. We demand that the suspended judiciary of Pakistan shall be restored and a free, fair and transparent election should be held under their supervision.

As we realize the political stability is vital in ensuring education and employment rights, we are strongly against the usage by the state of mechanism to crackdown on the youth and people movement.

On Education

We have identified commercialization and privatization, both of which are dictates of capitalist powers and the trend of neo-liberal globalization as a major commonality and trend in our countries. Both of these have raised issues of accessibility and quality of education especially for the underprivileged and the poor, making education a privilege to be enjoyed only by the few and the powerful.

In most countries, more and more students are dropping out of school or are unable to enter schools because of the rising cost of education. Our governments are reducing the budget and subsidy of our schools leading to a loss of necessary facilities and infrastructures such as classrooms, textbooks, teachers for quality education. These necessary funds are instead being transferred to military funds which are being used to suppress the people.

The lack of state subsidy on education and the manipulation by military governments and religious fundamentalists of curriculums have also caused a problem in the quality of education. Our schools are being used to train docile and semi-skilled workers for foreign markets or to become submissive to the government instead of being critical thinkers and nationalists.

Gender and racial discrimination are prevalent in our schools. Women are neglected in schools. Indigenous youth are refused their right to be educated in their own language.

Academic freedom is being suppressed in our schools and universities. These include the right to establish and run an independent student council/union and student publication, the rights to organize, assemble, hold protest rallies and speak against the injustices that we see in our land. Besides, we believe that the “freedoms to teach, research, publish and to speak extramurally” are the basics of academic freedom and should never be violated.

On Employment

We, too, face great problems with regards to our right to decent employment. In most countries, there is a great lack of employment opportunities and so our graduates and professionals are being forced to work in another land. As stated, our schools, universities and institutions are used to produce labor according to the demands of foreign nations and multinational corporations.

Wages and salaries remain low and barely enough for the survival of families for their daily livelihood. In our countries, the increase in the minimum wage, if there is any, fails in comparison to our country’s inflation rate and the rising cost of living.

Job security is also a major problem that we face. As imposed by the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Economic Forum and Asian Development Bank, “contractualization” has become a matter of policy for employers, be it the government, private sector or multinational corporations.

The predominance of the feudal mode of production in our countries causes underemployment. Many people are being hired to jobs lower than their qualifications. University degree holders become mere clerks or service men. It has also forced our professionals to work in the bubble economy of Business Process Outsourcing such as call center jobs which one day shall implode leaving thousands upon thousands jobless.

Forced labor migration is a growing problem caused by unemployment. Instead of ensuring employment by creating new jobs that would hire our people, our governments encourage the export of cheap-labor as a source of foreign remittances to boost our nation’s sinking economies rather than use these productive labor force for the benefit our people and our nation.

There is a lack of necessary agreements between our governments and those of receiving countries, and as a result, migrant workers face great hardships in foreign nations and do not receive protection and support from our governments. Their jobs are usually characterized by three Ds (dirty, dangerous and difficult). They face discrimination, extreme exploitation, physical and mental abuse and are paid extremely low salary when compared to local and workers from the first world working in the same jobs. More so, they do not receive protection from both sending and host governments.

The situation of women workers continues to worsen. Their rights in the workplace are ignored. They are not provided with equal job opportunities as those given to men. They usually receive less for the same amount and quality of work done. They face gender discrimination in the workplace, especially sexual and physical harassment from other employees and employers.

Because of extreme poverty, the practice of child labor continues. Children are being forced to work in sweatshops and garbage collectors, become domestic helpers instead of going to school to become educated.

In factories, shops and the workplace, the rights of workers and trade unions are intentionally being denied by multinational corporations and local exploiting industrialists. Some are being denied their rights to hold strikes and pickets and to negotiate their demands.

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