Call to remove polling booths from schools

PABSON delegation meets Ian Martin

Kathmandu, February 6:

Private schools, human rights activists and lawyers today urged the government to remove polling booths from schools and ensure conducive learning environment to the children.

Umesh Shrestha, president of the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation Nepal (PABSON), said schools are never targeted even in countries where the situation is worse than ours. He said that the Election Commission has handed over letters to some schools without any consultation with principals and members of the school management committees.

In Kathmandu alone, 125 polling stations are set up in schools, colleges and educational institutions out of which 32 schools are private.

“The government should take responsibility for any untoward incidents, as schools have remained open and there are some hosteliers in hostels,” Shrestha said at an interaction organised by the Reporters’ Club. “The schools should not be made scapegoats by any warring factions.”

“We will make a long-term strategy to press the government in the days to come to tackle such situations,” said Shrestha.

President of the Nepal Bar Association, Shambu Thapa, said setting up of polling booths in schools without consulting their owners is against the constitution and the Aducation Act.

“The government cannot impose its rights on private property.”

Sushila Shrestha, principal of the Swapna Batika Academy, said the parents have opposed the idea of setting up polling booths in schools. “If any untoward incident occurs, the government should compensate for the same,” said Shrestha.

Malla K Sundar, human rights activist, said that the government has breached the agreement to declare educational institutions and children as zone of peace. “This is an extreme example of state monopoly,” said Sunder.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) member Dr Ram Dayal Rakesh said the government should opt for other alternatives such as using municipal offices or ward offices for polling rather than educational institutions. Citing the recent bombing at Bal Mandir in Papla just because a polling booth was set up there, he said that there was no guarantee

that such incidents would not repeat in other places as well.

PABSON officials met Ian Martin, chief of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and briefed him about the schools where polling booths have been set up. According to Lakshya Bahadur KC, general secretary of PABSON, Martin extended his support.

Education Minister Radha Krishna Mainali had earlier said the government had no alternatives than set up polling booths in schools and that the UN had no right to advise the government on such issues.

NSU condemns govt act

Kathmandu: The Nepal Students’ Union (NSU) on Monday condemned the government decision of using public campuses as polling booths and security personnel’s forceful entry into Padma Kanya Campus in Bag Bazaar.

The NSU said security personnel entered the campus premises although the campus chief opposed the entry of male security personnel in the ladies hostel. Thirty-five students are staying in the hostel. “The security personnel did not listen to the students’ plea to mobilise female security personnel,” the NSU said. The student outfit also said Pashupati Multiple Campus, Nepal Commerce Campus and Padma Kanya Multiple Campus were vacated forcefully for the voting slated for Wednesday. — HNS