Depriving Children’s Rights to Education in Nepal
By Conflict Study Center
Contributed by Dr. Bishnu Pathak and Chitra Niraula. Assisted by Shankar Poudyal, Rushma Shakya and Prem Prasad Pathak. (Source: Media Monitoring and Field Observation)
Today, Kathmandu is closed down again. No vehicles are running, no shops are open and no business is operating. People are scurrying hurriedly on their feet to their destinations for fear of mis-happenings. The smoke of the burning tires in crossroads has choked the neighborhood. In many places, not only public and private vehicles, but also ambulances have been stopped.
Factor for the closure
On May 25, 2007, Educational Republic Forum (ERF) that is close to Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and Institutional School Teacher’s Union (ISTU) organized a sit-in at the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) on the eight day of the strike of all public and private educational institutions at and below Secondary level. Police charged with baton and fired tear gas, where more than 76 people were injured. Many have severe wounds in the head and many others have fractured hands and legs. Protesting the brutal treatment to them, they called for transport strike within Kathmandu from the afternoon. This has further aggravated the environment for talks.
Schools-8,500 (Private) 27,500 (Public)
Students-1,500,000 (Private) 63,00,000 (Public)
Teachers/Staffs-150,000 (Private) 600,000 (Public)
On May 26, 2007, ERF and All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union (Revolutionary), Maoist Student’s Wing, demanded for a public apology from the Education Minister Pradip Nepal for his order to inhuman and cruel treatment and abuse to the demonstrators, and compensate expenses for medical treatment to the injured. Almost 7.8 million students across the country have been affected by the strike. Both the organizations had jointly organized rallies, processions and meetings throughout the country, and called for an indefinite strike. Their original principal demands were: all the agreements done by earlier governments should be immediately implemented; and the private schoolteachers and staffs should be availed remuneration and facilities equal to the civil service.
• Educational sector has been a wrestling ground of political parties.
• Significant differences exist in private and public schools in terms of policies, strategies, curriculum, etc.
• The private schools charge high admission fees annually and monthly fees compared to public in the name of better education. Similarly, there are discrepancies concerning fees in different private schools.
• The salaries and benefits to teaching and non-teaching staffs of private is less compared to public; whereas there is discrepancies amongst private schools in these regard too.
• Textbooks are not available in the remote areas on time.
• Many public school teachers have not been availed permanency albeit their long services (some even more than 20 years) so that their occupation is not secure.
• Civil Servants and officials along with public school teachers send their children to private schools. The leaders of political parties and senior bureaucrats send their children to schools abroad. Whereas, they are the prime investors and investing heavily on the private schools.
• Education although a foundation to economic, physical, social and cultural phenomena, has been less prioritized in the government policies, plans and programs. The agendas included in the programs are not implemented on time.
• The MoES in drowned in corruption and commission.
• The Asian Development Bank and World Bank have been imposing educational reforms that are not compatible in Nepali perspectives.
• No educational materials developed by the government on mother tongue for the ethnicities and nationalities despite of government’s repeated commitments.
• Illiterate parents/guardians also have ‘inkling’ towards English and send their children to private schools.
• Discrimination: The children of the rich families study in rich private and better schools and become doctors and engineers, whereas those from the poor families are bound to study in poor public schools to become their workers.
• Parents impose their wishes on the children while selecting the subjects or schools.
• There is no forum to share and discuss the issues relating to education among students, teachers and parents.
• The Nepali media has not given due response to this critical issue, but exclusive coverage on politics.
• Priority to money, muscle and mafia instead of mind.
The government had formed a talks committee, the same day the strike was announced, headed by a Joint Secretary of the Ministry, without consulting with the agitating forces. The teaching and administrative staffs, who had been involved in talks with that level and suffered a lot due to lack of implementation for eight times, rejected to participate in the talks. Therefore, they demanded a Minister level Talks Committee to execute the previous agreements, because the Joint Secretary is not authorized to take decisions but mere parroting.
The Minister Nepal responded to media that he was not in the position to lead the talks team since the agitators had utilized the maximum right of the trade union by calling a strike and insisted on the agitators to talk with the Team led by the Joint Secretary. After that giving an interview to Radio Nepal, he abused the agitators by accusing that they were terrorists and it was not feasible to talk with the terrorists. Then, the agitators planned to sit-in at the MoES and appealed the Minister to take back the term ‘terrorist’ and create a conducive environment for talks. The agitators have questioned publicly if Minister Nepal was a minister of the autocratic regressive force formed by Gyanendra.
This is not the first problem in the MoES and it will not be the last, because the leaders of political parties when not in power ‘purr as a cat’ advocating on behalf of people, but ‘turn into a lion and roar’ against the people after attaining power. The vital factor is that they have no academic horizon and vision, albeit are guided by money, muscle and mafia. Such persons are far from the democratic processes of dialogue, consensus and cooperation rather indulge in coercion and force.
UNICEF/Nepal, Civil Society, Private School Organizations, Teacher’s Unions, and so on have called both the sides to hold talks. The meeting initiate by the Guardian’s Association with the Minister of State could not continue since the Minister had not apologized for the incident of May 25, 2007.
Education is the wealth for a nation, which must be universal. It must reach all the commoners ensuring free and compulsory. It plays significant role to produce patriotic, progressive, disciplined and skilled human resources.
Literacy to children opens the door to higher education and an educated youth can properly lead the country in the right direction through the right path. Education ensures intrinsic empowerment of the people, which uplifts their personal, social and progressive role in the society and nation. Depriving children from education is a violation of the basic right of a child. The State, political parties and society have no ground to make education a tool to fulfill their interests and ambitions. Today’s children are the helmspersons for tomorrow’s nation and education is the backbone of a society. A society can develop when human beings are aware on problems and their solutions. Therefore, education and children are complementary and their rights should be respected, protected and promoted even in time of war. No one has the authority to deprive the children to education, a basic component of their right to development.