Flaws in school enrolment drive

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, April 21:

Child rights and education activists today raised questions over the significance of the government’s school enrolment campaign as most of the schools have either been closed or badly affected due to the conflict.

“The enrolment campaign is a severe challenge in itself as most of the schools are either closed or badly affected,” said Tarak Dhital, programme coordinator at CWIN. He said the Maoists had kidnapped 7,532 students and teachers from different places during the first three months of the year. He added nobody knows for sure how many of them are back home and are normal.

“In the same period, 17 children and two teachers were killed in conflict-related incidents and 15 children have ‘surrendered’. Eleven schools were bombed and bunkers were dug up in 56 schools. One can hardly imagine of going to schools in such a situation. What will be the meaning of getting enrolled in schools?” he asked, adding schools were closed for 28 days in the three-month period in Salyan district.

Dhital added education sector has been badly hit in the villages also due to destruction of school infrastructure, running away of teachers, inactive school management committees, lack of monitoring mechanism, lack of encouragement to teachers and displacement of students and their families from the villages.

“In such a situation, it cannot be considered wise if schools think that their responsibility ends with enrolment,” he said.

Balkrishna Ranjit from UNFPA said the enrolment campaign was launched without proper homework. “We cannot improve education scenario only by forcefully dragging or attracting the children to the schools if the schools lack basic infrastructure,” he said.

He said the programme would be called successful only if scholarship and other facilities reached the target groups.

Bijaya Gautam, an education activist, said the education ministry has brought the campaign as a “whim” and enrolment efforts will be terminated after the campaign ends. “Enrolment and education sector as a whole cannot be solved without bringing the “revolutionary” students to the table of talks,” he said.