There is little disagreement over hard times that Nepal is now tiding over. The cost of living is soaring as never before. Unemployment is at an all-time high and the business is dwindling. Peace and normalcy still appear elusive. Each day is a difficult day for an average citizen. A major consolation until now was the fact that students in large number of areas despite hindrances, had been attending classes in private as well as public schools. Irrespective of the frequent bandhs, blockades and hurdles, the last academic calendar was fairly successfully completed as exemplified by smooth completion of the SLC exams. But beginning the new year, the private schools are being threatened to remain closed and that is where bigger problems have emerged. In fact, several marathon sessions of talks last year between the private school owners and representatives of those calling for a close down, the Maoist-affiliated ANNISU-R, had prevented this scenario from becoming a constant feature. It is unfortunate that students outside the capital city have been forced to stay at home. Everything possible should thus be done at quickly to have the schools get on with the normal academic routine.
But in trying to find a solution, the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation (PABSON) has tried an unconventional method to help it overcome the crisis. The private school body has asked the international community to help diffuse the problem, which, no matter how sanctimonious the intention, amounts to inviting outside intervention in matters which should be dealt with internally. Without a solution, thousands of students will suffer and another 175,000 people will be rendered jobless. Solidarity aside, one wonders how advisable is it to invite outsiders to solve our social problems. The major area of discontent, among others, is the disparity in the school fee structure. While the bombing of schools cannot be condoned nor the closure justified, the need for revising the existing fee slab in private schools depending upon the quality of services they offer has always been there. Private schools often fleece parents. For instance, many students could not appear in the SLC exams this year because the schools they were enrolled in were not authorised to send candidates to SLC exams. Even if a few schools cannot represent the whole sector, the government needs to intervene and initiate dialogue and find an amicable way out of the crisis. Navigating one’s own way out of a mess is the safest bet. International pressure, no doubt, may help. But that cannot be the panacea for every ailment. It is for the human rights bodies, the public, parents, students, well-wishers and the school-owners to exert maximum pressure on those forcing the closure.