|Contrary to political leaders´ commitment to maintaining the educational sector as a zone of peace, Friday´s partial general strike affected 6.8 million school-goers for 15th time in the running academic calendar that began in mid-April.Government data shows over 9.3 million students enrolled up to university level are directly affected by a nationwide strike.“We have already faced 15 days of closure in the current academic session whereas schools were affected for 140 days in one or the other part of the country in the last academic session,” said Private and Boarding School´s Organization, Nepal (PABSON) Chairman Baburam Pokhrel. As per the academic calendar, classes need to be conducted for 220 days.“Situation has not changed even after declaring the education sector as zone of peace,” said Pokhrel. The government on May 26 last year had declared the education sector as zone of peace.But immediately after the government hiked fuel price on September 3, the student unions affiliated to various political groups have hit the streets enforcing vehicular strike that has directly affected the students from playgroup to university level.
One of the several reasons behind the decline in SLC pass percentage this year could be the frequent strikes, say government officials. The SLC appeared pass percentage of the community schools was 47 percent in 2011 that declined to 36 this year, said Tek Narayan Pandey, Director of the Department of Education.
The total SLC pass percentage had also declined by nine percent this year. In 2011, the SLC pass percentage was 56 percent which declined to 47.16 this year.
When it comes to the university level, the TU academic calendar makes it mandatory to run at least 155 classes a year in each level. However, TU constituent colleges are able to run classes for hardly 100 days, according to TU officials.
Some of the instance of educational strike will surprise anyone as Nepal Educational Republican Forum on February 2 called a day-long strike in Valley-based schools following a minor dispute among the teachers and principal of Daffodil School, Kapan.
Similarly, a gangfight among the students affiliated to two different political parties at Pashupati Multiple Campus, Chabahil on April 19 affected one million students from play group to university-level when the CPN-UML affiliated All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) called a sudden educational strike on May 7.
Strikes a huge distraction: Students, teachers
“Sometimes students find it difficult to comprehend lessons when classes are suddenly interrupted,” said Niraj Mandal, a computer teacher at Madan Bhandari Memorial School, Kathmandu. Similar is the experience of seventh grader Prashamsa Dahal studying at Child Nature School, Lokanthali who said that she feels her attention deviating from a subject matter when classes are closed for uncertain period without finishing a particular chapter.
Meanwhile, experts say that the government needs to come up with a mandatory guideline to treat schools as zones of peace. “More strikes are being enforced from politically-motivated groups. Thus a legal directive is necessary to stop the tendency of using the educational sector to pursue political ambitions,” educationist Vidyanath Koirala.