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Kamala Sarup: Don't Attack Schools

Don't Attack Schools


Kamala Sarup

Some private schools in Nepal closed on Friday after a Maoist student union demanded they shut down indefinitely or risk attack. The latest threat comes after an 11-day nationwide strike sponsored by the Maoists. However, the strike, crippled businesses and transport. But educational institutions in the tightly guarded capital, Kathmandu, functioned normally after re-opening for the new academic year.

Maoists also bombed two schools in western Nepal Thursday and another there last week to warn them of the consequences if they ignored the closure order. Some 1.5 million students study in Nepal's 8,500 private and boarding schools. The 4.9 million students studying in Nepal's 25,000 public schools were not affected by the Maoists' closure demand.

In 300 kilometres (187 miles) southwest of Kathmandu, 172 private boarding schools shut, disrupting the studies of 72,000 students because of constant threats of attacks on schools and teachers," Prem Shah, another schools' association official, said. Maoists used to enforced a total Nepal bandh, shutting down academic institutions and forcing vehicles off the roads.

Some 3,000 teachers have been displaced from district schools and some 700 private schools targeted by the Maoists have closed down since 1996, according to the Department of Education.

Most of the Education sectors have become visible victims of politicization in Nepal. Politicians and Maoists are always keen to use the teachers and students to further their own selfish motives because in the case of Nepal, the identity and security issues have been unfulfilled and unsettled. Nepalese people are concerned that basic education should not be used for political means. Nepalese people know that as peace and political stability are the fundamental conditions for the economic and educational development of the country, all political forces and others need to bury their political differences and work collectively for the restoration of peace in the country. All political parties, members of civil society, business community and general people should extend their active cooperation in establishing permanent peace in the country.

The conflict over the last ten years seriously affected the country's social, educational and economic and national wellbeing and properties worth billions of rupees were damaged. The atmosphere of insecurity and terror ruined the national economy.

Maoists and Nepalese leaders should know how the institution of education is in a dialectical relationship with society. What prevails in the outside environment influences what happens inside and what is also taught and transmitted in the schools affects the societies outside and their relationship to each other? When conflict arises, relationships between students and the educational system can become strained so they should know in each society the issue of education, its philosophical and ideological underpinnings which have always been intense in view of its political and historical role. They should not forget the creation of responsible citizens and the promotion of friendship and cooperation between the various students organizations of the country and respect for the dignity and uniqueness of each individual.

The primary education reform programme launched since mid 1980's encompassed multi faceted activities, which included curriculum development, teacher training, establishment of resource centers and construction of classrooms.

Even Nepalese people can not forget how government schools are facing serious shortage of basic infrastructures. Most of the schools lack toilets and many of them are deprived of drinking water. Most of the school buildings are old and yet another problem the students are facing in remote parts of the district is considerably long distance they have to cover to reach school.

All Political parties must work towards a mutually acceptable solution because mediation in special education can resolve disagreements concerning identification, evaluation, or education placement of a student. Political parties should encourage mutual problem-solving efforts and should promote positive working relationships between students and political parties. Nepalese leaders should help political organizations and school personnel focus on what they have in common with the student's needs.

Leaders should think what kind of relationship that will develop between the various political parties that will determine the level of reconciliation, attitude change, and the recognition of inter-dependence among the conflicting societies.

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(Kamala Sarup is editor of http://peacejournalism.com/ )

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