UN denounces Nepal school attacks claimed by Maoists

BBC, July 27, 2012

The UN in Nepal has condemned an increasing number of attacks on schools by youth activists which it says has put the lives of children in danger.

A Maoist-linked students’ union has said that it carried out the attacks as part of its campaign to reform Nepal’s “unequal education system”.

They accuse managers of charging excessive fees.

They also want schools to avoid foreign names. Some have names like Liverpool and Florida to attract students.

Nepal is still gripped by political instability six years after the end of the civil war between Maoist rebels and the army in which more than 13,000 people were killed.

Parliament in the Himalayan nation was dissolved after lawmakers failed to ratify a new constitution.

‘Doing our best’

The UN statement expressed deep concern that the attacks on schools – and school buses – were jeopardising the right of children to have an education.

It follows recent arson attacks on school buses in the capital Kathmandu and the eastern town of Dharan by student activists affiliated to the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms these actions, and look to the authorities to launch investigations to identify those responsible,” the UN statement said.

“Such acts of violence go against the basic principles of children’s right to education in a protective environment free from fear.”

Police told the BBC’s Surendra Phuyal in Kathmandu that a student activist had been arrested and interrogated in connection with the attack on buses near Dharan earlier this week and was later released.

“We are doing our best,” Nepal police spokesman Binod Singh said. “But the problem is that most of the attackers do it from hiding and then escape.”

The UN in 2011 declared all schools and school buses to be Zones of Peace – “a safe haven for children where teaching and learning can continue unhindered in an atmosphere free of violence and interference”.

The Maoist-affiliated All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union co-ordinator Sharad Rasaili said that the campaign was started because “the government doesn’t listen if we don’t protest like this”.

But Kathmandu private school Director Shanta Dixit, whose bus was targeted last week, termed such attacks as “very cruel”.

“This kind of barbarism can’t be tolerated by any civil society, and will not be tolerated by us,” she said.