Unwarranted move

There appears to be no imminent letup in the frequency of strikes called by the various political outfits in Nepal. The public has long had enough of them. But once again the academic sector is being targeted. With the school calendar now climaxing towards an exam finale, strikes are being announced. Strings of marathon blockades and bandhs hampered sent-up exams in several areas. One of the leaders of the Maoist-affiliated student body, the All Nepal National Independent Students Union (Revolutionary), has said that it is not the rebels’ intention to hamper the SLC exams slated to begin on March 27. Yet the 10-day call for a strike from April 3 to 12 negates what its leader says as it will affect the practical exams. As it is, the rebels have not been steadfast in what they say and what they do. How can one believe them when innocent students and teachers are being abducted from the classrooms for whatever reasons? It is every child’s right to go to school in an environment free from all kinds of fear. It is also the pupil’s right to appear for exams under a congenial atmosphere, in the absence of which, performance is hampered.

The Maoist body has also made it known that it will shut down private schools in the country from the next academic year. The strike and the closure threats come as a double whammy to a sector that has long been reeling under the effects of insurgency. But shutting down private schools is by far the most naked of all the warnings, which, should it come true, will affect thousands of students and force teachers into unemployment. The intention to shut down private schools has arisen out of the rebels’ will to disallow schools run with a “commercial motive.” Commercialisation or not, the private sector has significantly contributed to the cause of education in Nepal. That is, however, not to say the private sector has the most satisfactory system in place. Random fee structure, and in some cases, even syllabus, still prevail despite repeated negotiations with the student bodies and the government over several thorny issues. Differences aside, threatening a sweeping ban and sowing an environment of fear in academic institutions is not the best way of negotiating those patches. While it is important for the private schools to conduct themselves as responsible, transparent and credible places of learning, closure will do no justice to thousands of students whose education is indispensable as well as to parents who have spent a major part of their income on their children’s education. Lastly, the rebels reiteration to continue using students to dig bunkers for them discards any regard for the several conventions prohibiting involvement of children in conflicts.