KATHMANDU, Nov 11: Although the Ministry of Education (MoE) has decided that academic institutions will remain open during the protest programs of the CPN-Maoist and other anti-poll parties, uncertainty looms over the conduct of classes before the constituent assembly election.
Classes remained halted on Monday in almost all private and public schools prior to the Nepal banda enforced by the CPN-Maoist, although the school administrations remained open till 5 p.m. If the government fails to avert the transport strike called from Tuesday onwards, some eight million students from pre-primary to university level will be affected for seven consecutive days.
“We followed the MoE decision and opened the schools but guardians did not send their children,” said Baburam Pokhrel, chairman of the Private and Boarding Schools Association (PABSON). He added that the school administrations would remain open even if the students are absent.
While the CPN-Maoist has called a general strike till November 20, the government has announced public holidays from the 17th to the 20th in view of the November 19 poll.
Schools and higher secondary schools have decided to conduct classes for those students who manage to get to school on foot or by cycle, said Baikuntha Aryal of Kathmandu District Education Office. However, rumors about explosive devices have prevented guardians from sending their children to school.
There are more than 1,500 school vehicles in Kathmandu Valley. Schools hire a large number of public vehicles for ferrying students. Around one million students are concentrated in the Valley.
PABSON has agreed to open the schools but it is not prepared to challenge the strike by moving vehicles onto the roads. “We want an assurance from the Maoist leaders that they will let school vehicles move as freely as ambulances and fire trucks,” said Pokharel.
MoE had declared the academic sector a zone of peace in 2011 but this concept was violated hundreds of times over the last two years by the political parties and their sister organizations, said Tek Narayan Pandey, director at the Department of Education. PABSON records show that classes were disrupted 148 times in different parts of the country last year alone.
“The decision to keep the schools open was taken on Sunday in the presence of private sector school representatives as well as representatives of the guardians,” added Pandey. “This is the right time to correct our practice as the government has been assuring compensation if their vehicles are vandalized.”
Meanwhile, guardians have said that the 220 days of the academic calendar can’t be implemented unless the government guarantees the movement of public vehicles regardless of any general strike.