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UNICEF appeals for fear to be banished from Nepal’s classrooms

Students, teachers and buildings a key casualty of the conflict says agency

NEW YORK, KATHMANDU, GENEVA, 1 April, 2005 – The start of the new school year in Nepal should be a time for all parties involved in the conflict to ensure that violence and fear stay out of the classroom, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia has urged.

“April 15, the starting date for school enrolment in Nepal, is a day of hope for families bringing their children to school for the first time.” Cecilia Lotse said today. “They hope that school will help their children learn to read, to write, to count – in short, to develop strong foundations for a full and productive life as adults'.

“The first day of school is also a scary day for many children around the world. But the children of Nepal have good reason to feel fear. Schools, teachers and students have been a key casualty of the last nine years of the conflict.”

Some schools in conflict-affected areas have been turned into barracks, have been used for political meetings and enforced political-indoctrination sessions, have been bombed, and attacked.

Similarly, grounds where children should be able to play in safety have been dug with trenches. There are also reports that mines and other explosive devices have also been placed in and around school buildings and playgrounds.

“The fear and violence that is eating away at the education system in Nepal is eating away at the future of its children, ” said Lotse.

She also pointed out that, even in districts where schools had remained open, the continuing series of strikes and blockades had eroded the time children can go to school sometimes even to less than half the normal academic year.

“Children in primary schools suffer most when there are delays in the teaching. Here children learn to read, whereas higher up they read to learn,” she commented.

“Older children are much better able to pick up where they left off if their education is disrupted. Younger children have to start again with this difficult business of learning to read, write and count. Too many disruptions and it just gets too hard.”

According to UNICEF

  • Nepal is lagging behind its South Asian neighbours in terms of education; 
  • Efforts to increase school enrolment are being significantly undermined by the continuing conflict;
  • More than half a million children are getting no education at all, meaning that one out of every five children aged six to ten is not in school;
  • The majority of these children are girls or children from disadvantaged groups.

“Education is not just a right for all children,” said Ms. Lotse. “It is also a crucial foundation stone for the development of each child and each family, and ultimately a foundation stone for the development of the country itself.

 “Let this new school year in Nepal be one where this awful, destructive cycle of violence stops and children can go to school – to learn, to grow, to play – in peace.”

For further information, please contact: 

Martin Dawes or Binita Shah, UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia 00 977 1 4417082
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York,  Tel:  212 326 7452 kdonovan@unicef.org
Damien Personnez, UNICEF Geneva, Tel:  41 22 909 5716 dpersonnez@unicef.org




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