Schools as zone of peace A populist political slogan

2014-04-05

Himalayan News Service

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From the people’s perspective, as ‘children are the future of the nation’ their right to education, without any hindrance, must be preserved. Many I/NGO have raised this issue since a long time. To our surprise, even the political parties and their sister organizations have also raised this issue, despite knowing that it was not possible without their honesty.

In some districts, the notion of ‘Education as zone of peace’ was announced in the past, and some even schools tried to maintain it. Although a very few schools achieved success in maintaining their schools as zone of peace in the sense that education of the students was not disturbed even during times of conflict and bandhs. However, this example could not be replicated to other parts of the country.

Human rights activists, child rights organizations, parents, children, teachers and social workers all realize the value of peace zone in education, and raised their voices accordingly. Keeping this valuable suggestion in mind, the Ministry of Education (MoE) prepared a proposal for making the education sector a zone of peace around three years ago.

On May 25, 2011 the Government of Nepal declared the Nepali education sector as zone of peace. Many organizations now have appreciated this decision. And, everyone should do it too. However, announcement of the schools as the peace zone is only one side of the coin, while the implementing mechanism is sthe other. The question is ‘how committed is the government to implement its own decision?’ To answer this question we have to ask the government whether if it has done any homework to regularize the schools, colleges and universities at times of political activities like ‘bandhs’. Has there been any discussion among the political parties to come up to a consensus? Did they ventilate this idea among various sister organizations of the political parties like students’ unions, teachers’ unions, non-teaching staff unions, university authorities, security agencies, parents and other stakeholders?

In fact, the government has not undertaken any of these before making such an important announcement. The evidence is clear: the next day, 600 teachers of the valley defied this announcement by closing all the schools deterring children from going to school. Moreover, the UGC and Nepal Sankrit University are locked up even after this announcement. Now, the major question is: Who is ruling the country, the government or others?

In this chaos, where politics itself is liquefied, who will give priority to the peace zone? It can be said that the announcement was merely an immature and populist political decision. The government, in the name of peace zone, wants all school and college buses ply smoothly without any interruption.

These days, around 9 million children are getting education in schools, colleges and universities, and most of them in public institutions, where there are no stransportation facilities. Only 13 per cent of the total are admitted in private institutions. So, the decision to ply educational institution buses during political disturbances is but one-sided policy to please the owners of the private schools and college.

Moreover, not all private institutions have their own vehicles, and they rent it from other sources. Whatever the situation, about 8 million children will have no option but walk to the schools from their home. Can the government provide security to this mass? If so, in what ways? In the valley, some hilly areas and the Tarai, children use bicycles and/or public buses to reach their schools. What arrangement has the government made to preserve the rights of these students during conflict? The government has answers to none of these.

First, they should devise such a mechanism that stops political strikes and/or ‘bandhs’ from reaching or affecting the educational institutions. A central level political consensus is required here. Second, the mechanism of punishment for those who defy this rule is needed. A careful legal arrangement can do this. Third, making the children free from psychological terror and a feeling of safety, while travelling to school and coming back home, is required. This can be done with a local level political consensus, and monitoring groups in place at various corners of the locality where the schools are operating. The cooperation of parents is highly required in this mechanism.

Fourth, making people, especially the political parties and their sister organizations, convinced that the children are the future of the nation. For this, the idea of “education as zone of peace’ and its importance must be disseminated from central to the local level. Media can play vital role for this. And, finally, a strong monitoring mechanism is required to see if the idea is working well in practice. The DEO and RC can be instrumental in this connection. Unless the mechanisms are in-built within the system itself, the dream of ‘Education as zone of peace’ will remain unfulfilled.

Dr. Wagley is an educationist

(Source: The Himalayantimes)