Not enough

To escape victimisation at the hands of both the security forces and the rebels, the panic-stricken school children are reported to be fleeing the country in huge numbers. In the far-West and the far-East, the number of school dropouts have touched almost 15 per cent mark this year alone. The kids are said to be traumatised by the incidents where their loved ones are gunned down ruthlessly, and are psychologically disturbed to witness their family face hardships caused by the on-going civil war. The April 12 incident, where security forces launched an air attack to decimate the Maoists during their public programme at Bidya Mandir Higher Secondary School in Achham, killing two school kids on the spot is only one of the many episodes where teenagers are caught in the crossfire. It is obvious then that they are compelled to seek alternative locations of “safety.”

Contrary to the Maoist chiefs’ assurance time and again not to target the educational establishments, the rebels have resorted to kidnapping educators and pupils in bulk. Most recently, they kidnapped 35 teachers from Sindhuli district, and also abducted 25 students from Baitadi. Officials seem to have realised that all this has led to further deterioration in the educational sector. With a view to helping those in conflict-hit areas, the government has now decided to allocate Rs 10 million for educational relief programmes effective next academic year. The amount will be used for providing scholarships to the orphans and other victims, in paying salaries for the instructors and in constructing modern school infrastructure. The Department of Education has recognised the urgent need after the donor agencies expressed “serious concerns” over the impact of the conflict in education. With the NDF 2004 meet starting in two days, the initiative, in all likelihood, may turn out to be a reality.

However, one time grant, that too a meagre one, is not the real solution to improve and protect education in the country. This seems more like a temporary arrangement to lift the victims out of their misery and give them consolation of a sort. What is required is a massive effort by the government incorporating all aspects of educational development and self-sustaining policy approach. It is essential to enter into some negotiated agreement under which the Maoists and also the army will vouch never again to hit educational institutions. At the same time, all will depend on appropriate implementation of the plan and proper allocation of resources. In the end, however, authorities should not forget that much is contingent upon restoration of peace in the country.