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Nepali Goverment Declares Schools “Zones of Peace”

The Nepali government has declared that educational institutions are now “peace zones”.

A Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 25th May 2011 took the decision for all school and college buses in the country to display a uniform colour to alert Nepalis to their protected status.

All of the school buses will bear the same colour, which will be fixed by the Education Ministry. Similarly, the meeting decided to construct toilets for female students in public schools and allocate seats to them in the public transport.

“In the case of ambulance a mechanism for regular movement of public vehicles will be ensured,” Ganga Lal Tuladhar, education minister and the government spokesperson said after the meeting. With this decision, any protests or strikes that affect the smooth operation of the education sector will become punishable. “These vehicles shall be treated as ambulances,” he said, adding that the provision was set to enforce the concept of “peace zone”.

The demand for peace zones was forwarded by teachers and students reeling from years of repeated strikes and agitations.

The exact choice of color will be fixed later, according to minister Tuladhar.

After the government repeatedly failed to declare schools as peace zones, many NGOs working in the field of human rights began to declare some designated schools as zones of peace.

According to the Nepal’s Education Ministry, the decade long conflict in Nepal has prompted various kind of challenges in the education sectors.

“Studies will be carried out on the impacts on the education sector due to conflict and measures to address these. Special attention will be given to solving the problems created for children due to the conflict, like mental stress, reduction in mutual goodwill and displacement, by incorporating different programs of reconciliation, mutual goodwill and peace in education programs,” according to the Nepali government’s three year interim plan on education.

During the decade long conflict, many Nepali schools and collages were targeted by both the state and insurgents. Children were deprived of their Right to Education due to strikes and traffic blockades.

“Political parties were found to be using children in protests and demonstrations of various kinds. The slogan of ‘Schools: A Peace Zone’ could not materialize after the Nepal’s Maoists joined the political mainstream,” Nepal’s Human Rights Organization said in its report.

The 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord between the Maoist (the then insurgent) and the state contains commitments to ban all kinds of violent activities as well as all acts of sexual exploitation against women and children for the security of their rights.

Besides, parties to the accord have also agreed not to recruit individuals under 18 years of age in any armed force and to provide necessary cooperation for their immediate discharge and rehabilitation.

Another UN report suggested that as a result of the strife, children’s rights are violated and their lives are profoundly disrupted on a daily basis. According to a 2005 report “Child Workers in Nepal“, cited by UNICEF, over 40,000 Nepalese children are estimated to have been displaced over the course of the Maoist uprising. “Tens of thousands have been abducted for short periods for political indoctrination by the Maoists,” the report said.

Education has suffered, particularly due to enforced closures during strikes, which have cut the school year to nearly half in some areas, according to the report.

Nepal has been undergoing tremendous political transformation following the ending the 10-year old armed insurgency of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and achieving durable peace. Towards the end of April 2006, after almost three-weeks of a general strike and street protests around the nation against direct royal rule, King Gyanendra gave up executive powers of state, which he had assumed in February 2005, restored the last Parliament and allowed the formation of a government composed of the Parliamentary parties.

About Anil Giri

Writes for The Kathmandu Post, the leading English newspaper in Nepal. Earlier, he was stationed in New Delhi as a Chief of Bureau for The Himalayan Times. He has worked for AHN, the US based new agency, The Guardian, Korea Times and others.

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