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Kamala Sarup: Attacks In School Must Be Stopped

Attacks In School Must Be Stopped

By Kamala Sarup

The Maoists have been targeting educational institutions, and if the attacks on educational institutions continue, what will be the future of the country and our children? Getting education and the continuing insecurity, instability and bleak future has led many students to go overseas. The conflict over the last ten years seriously affected the country's educational and national well being and properties worth billions of rupees are damaged.

Meanwhile, UNICEF has condemned the recent bombings of private schools in Nepal. " When schools are scarce and more than half a million children are not in school in the first place, to wantonly destroy schools only helps push its children back into ignorance. Nepal does not have enough schools for all its children. The private schools play a major part in helping ensure more children get to learn to read, write and count," said Dr Suomi Sakai, Representative of UNICEF Nepal.

Violence will continue until we choose to stop it. Attacks in School must be stopped. It must be stopped. Schools, like other public institutions, must be armed with awareness and preparedness, and they do so by planning, preparing, and practicing for emergency situations.

Private schools in the country have been forcefully shut down after a Maoist student demanded they shut down. Maoists also bombed many schools in western Nepal and they also bombed a school in the south-western town of Nepalgunj. To bomb schools is a senseless and cruel act against the children. To attack education and educational institutions is to attack the future of the next generation of our people. Some 1.5 million students study in Nepal's 8,500 private and boarding schools. At present, out of the total 30,82,000 children between the ages of five to nine, almost half a million are still out of school.

So, what have we done to protect our children and schools? Since Maoists started their war, schools in rural areas have been among the targets. They forced many teachers to regine, and those who did not comply were kidnapped and even murdered. Many parents, fearing for the safety of their children, chose not to send their children to school and confront the Maoists. Because of violence, there is no teaching learning environment. No school can function in such an atmosphere. Shutting down schools for even a single day inflicts great damage to the whole nation.

Even now, students who are displaced in the middle of the academic session were not admitted to other schools. Poverty and lack of social services remain pressing problems for rural students. The dropout rate at the primary level is still alarming. Secondary education has not been able to develop skills in students. The SLC results show that the country has wasted much of its investment in education. However, still thousands of girls are still denied a basic education. Enrolment rates for girls are always less.

On the other side, 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. Most of the political parties, including the Maoist party, are using educational institutions as their playgrounds for politics. Most intelligent students are being used by politicians and their future is being destroyed. Politicians and as well as the government have never talked about the basic problems faced by Nepalese students: higher education, employment opportunities and scholarships.

Basic education should not be used for political means. All should respect the student's right of being unaffected from the armed conflict and they should not be used by any political parties. On the other side, 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.

Education is a vast subject and education enhances one's ability to get better work and become an informed citizen, which is important in a peace. How a country can function adequately unless the general children and population has at least the ability to read and write to know what is going on? If the children and people are uneducated in the country, then the minority of educated people will pass laws and elect officials who promote the interests of the elite rather than the general population. Also, scientific and technical work require high reading skills. Many factory workers required some reading knowledge and some required knowledge of arithmetic and trigonometry too. We should not forget how the most developed countries could become so technically proficient and rich without considerable investments in education so that expertise could be disseminated throughout industries to people who work in them.

Now many children as young as 13 are trained to use assault rifles, grenades and mortars.They are also exposed to disease, physical exhaustion, injury, death and torture at the hands of the Maoists. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS, civil conflict, child labour, child trafficking and natural disasters also have a clear impact on access to schools and all tend to affect Nepal with already weak educational infrastructures. One should not forget, peace and political stability are the fundamental conditions for the educational development of the country, so all political forces and Maoists need to bury their political differences and work collectively for the restoration of peace in the country.


(Kamala Sarup is editor of )

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