Guardians offer to get teacher booked

Kathmandu, February 18

The Guardian Association of Nepal has volunteered to lodge a police complaint against a community school teacher accused of sexually molesting 26 girls of grades III, IV and V if the school management continues to remain tight-lipped on the issue.

The umbrella organisation of parents and guardians of schoolchildren had conducted its own investigation for two days after THT reported the case about sexual molestation on the premises of Shree Narayan Basic School in Mahalaxmi Municipality of Lalitpur. THT’s report was based on a letter written jointly by 26 students to the school principal. In the letter, 26 girls had accused Nanda Prasad Niraula, the 55-year-old social studies teacher at the school, of molesting them.

“We’ve interviewed over 18 girls and it appears the exploitation was more severe than explained in the letter,” said GAN Senior Vice-chair Subash Bhandari. “This is a serious case. The teacher should not go unpunished. If the school management committee fails to take up the case, we’ll file the first information report on our own.”

The GAN is of the view that school administration or school management committee should lodge the FIR as the girls’ letter is addressed to the principal. But both the administration and the committee appear indifferent towards this issue.

“We’ll first investigate the case internally before going to police,” said Nakul Thapa, a member of the school management committee and also the ward chair. When asked how long it would take to complete the investigation, he said, “We are working closely on this case. That’s all I can say for now.”

School Principal Sabita Silwal, on the other hand, has been asked to stay away from the case. “My hands are tied as I’ve been told not to interfere in this case,” she said.

GAN suspects this is the school management committee’s ploy to “dismiss the case by meting out lenient punishment to Niraula, such as expulsion from school, rather than taking legal action”.

Faced with this situation, the GAN is trying to convince parents of girls, who were molested, to formally lodge a police complaint. “The case will be stronger if parents take the lead,” said Bhandari. “But most of the parents are uneducated and daily labourers and feel uncomfortable dealing with legal issues.”

Police, meanwhile, have said they cannot formally probe the case on their own unless an FIR is filed as the victims are minors.

The girls, who have accused Niraula of sexual molestation, are aged nine to 13. They have accused Niraula of sitting very close to them and caressing their bodies, especially their chest and legs. They have also accused Niraula of shutting the doors and windows of classrooms before committing the heinous crime, according to GAN member Mina Pathak, who had interviewed the girls. “Niraula would then warn the girls not to tell others about what happened in the classroom,” said Pathak, adding, “He also invited the girls to his residence but nobody visited his home.”

This is not the first time Niraula has faced such allegations. He was transferred from two schools in Patan and Lakuri Bhanjyang after facing similar accusations, according to school principal Silwal.