As politicians campaign for votes in townships across the country, Myanmar’s teachers are planning a campaign of their own.

Primary, secondary and higher education teachers plan to don green ribbons starting on World Teacher Day, October 5, to protest against former military officers taking high-level positions in the ministry.

Led by the Myanmar Teachers’ Union, the campaign aims to imitate similar initiatives conducted by doctors and lawyers against the militarisation that has occurred in both the Ministry of Health and the Supreme Court in Nay Pyi Taw.

The league says that four current director generals in the Ministry of Education are former military officers.

“Teachers have been oppressed for many years,” said U Zaw Myo Hlaing, secretary of the Myanmar Teachers’ Union. “For example, if the media wants to know something about education, we need approval from senior officers to give them information. In classrooms, teachers dare not say or do something without the approval of headmasters.

“We are acting on behalf of educational staffs to establish an [educational] community where fairness and transparency exist.

“We have nothing to say about those ex-military officers who have already been appointed to administer the education sector but we hope that no more ex-military officers will be appointed in the future.”

Teachers say the ex-military officials in the ministry have a controlling administrative system with a high emphasis on discipline that does not allow for the creativity and flexibility necessary in the education field. They hope to see teaching professionals appointed to administrative roles in the future, leaders who can conduct a management process more appropriate to their work.

In the case of the “black ribbon” movement, medical staff across Myanmar publicly opposed the July appointments of 14 army officers to serve in the Ministry of Health. The campaign elicited a verbal pledge from Minister for Health U Than Aung to halt the appointment of military staff in the future, but on September 19 health professionals sought assurance in writing that the ministry would stick to its promise.

Following the health campaign, lawyers launched a similar “yellow ribbon” movement in early September, protesting the appointment of up to 20 military officers to the Union Supreme Court.

Teachers will look to emulate those movements, using social media posts to generate support from other members of the community.

However, organisers say it will be difficult to get large numbers of teachers to participate, as they will likely be scared of retribution from the ministry. Just a fraction of the 400,000 teachers who work in the Ministry of Education are expected to take part – at least initially.

“Some of the campaigns have already started, but the nationwide movement officially begins on World Teachers’ Day. We expect teachers from primary, secondary and private schools – around 4000 in total – to participate,” said U Zaw Myo Hlaing.

U Soe Win Oo from the Myanmar Private Teachers’ Federation said his organisation supported the campaign.

“Teachers have been oppressed by successive governments. We hope the campaign will bring good results,” he said.

“Whoever comes and manages the Ministry of Education should be an [education] expert. The main intention of the campaign is to have a better education system and transparency.”

A director from the Ministry of Education who asked not to be named said he was aware of the campaign and hoped it did not lead to “a bad situation”.

“The ministry has been administered by ex-military officers for a long time so we can’t say that our education system is not good due to it,” he said. “Now we all are working together to try to create a better education system.”