Nepal in Crisis 2006: Human Rights
NEPAL: Schools caught in the conflict - NGOs
April 2006
Schools caught in the conflict - NGO

Kathmandu, 3 Apr 2006 (IRIN)

Many of these children are at risk from the conflict as the rebels and army have fewer qualms about attacking each other in and around places of learning

Parents, teachers and NGOs in Nepal are gravely concerned about the rising number of clashes between Maoist rebels and security forces in or near places of learning.

Despite commitments by both the state and the rebels to avoid schools, human rights groups say they are being increasingly targeted. "Both the state and rebels have to think of the children first as they are the most vulnerable in such a violent situation," said activist Gauri Pradhan. Fears among parents intensified following an incident on 31 March when a rebel bomb exploded at a school in Dailekh district - 400 km west of the capital Kathmandu - leaving 12 students severely injured.

At the same time, the army regularly ignores its commitment to protecting schools, rights groups charge. Government forces often use school premises as barracks and this is why the rebels bomb them, parents have pointed out.

Security forces have been known to fire from helicopters at school buildings while pursuing Maoist rebels, who sometimes organise cultural events in school compounds.

< Teachers have been especially targeted in the conflict, allegedly by both rebels and the army. Narjit Basnet's hand was chopped off by Maoist rebels. He still manages to teach the children at a community school.

On 27 March, the army opened fire on a secondary school in Sindupalchok district, 80 km northwest of the capital, during one such Maoist programme. Local NGO, Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Coordination Committee (HRTMCC) said that although no pupils were physically hurt, they were left severely traumatised by the incident.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) office in Nepal has been particularly critical of what appears to be the deliberate targeting of schools by both sides in the conflict.

"Bombing and any other acts of violence on school premises are to be condemned. Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict must not target or endanger schools," said a statement by the children's organisation.

According to a report by local child rights group, Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), around 400 children have lost their lives in the decade-long conflict.

Credit IRIN 2006
Copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).