Nepal: Historic elections bring new era of hope
A bloody decade of civil war in which more than 130,000 Nepalese people were killed came to an end earlier this year. National elections took place on April 10 in a peaceful atmosphere, despite serious violence and human rights violations during the campaign.
The Maoist party won with over 30% of the vote, followed by the Nepali Congress with almost 23%. These and other major parties agreed that getting rid of the despised monarchy that has ruled Nepal for 240 years would be the first task of the new government. Thus Nepal became the world’s youngest republic on May 28, when the newly-elected Constituent Assembly voted to abolish the throne. Across the country, crowds of joyous Nepalese thronged the streets to celebrate the end of King Gyanendra’s rule. Education International welcomed these developments, and is about to begin working with its two Nepalese affiliates to help strengthen public education and to combat HIV and AIDS in the Himalayan nation. EI’s Alexandra Cogels spoke to Baburam Adhikari, General Secretary of the Nepal National Teachers’ Association, and Birendra P. Shrestha, General Secretary of the Nepal Teachers’ Association, during the first EFAIDS workshop in Nepal, held in Kathmandu from 25 to 28 June. With all the political changes, what do you foresee in education?“We, the Nepalese people are not expecting the change will come at once—the economical, geographical and cultural problems in our country are too great,” according to Shrestha. “Now, with the Maoist Party coming into power, there are many ideas being discussed—private education, a republic education, etc. But we question the lack of informed thought and absence of consensus amongst stakeholders. The Maoists need to aim for more consultation… Our work is based on the belief that education should be for all, it should be inclusive and it should meet the challenges of the 21st Century.” Adhikari agreed: “NNTA believes there should be a new educational policy, as per the reality on the ground in the country. Up to now, because of faulty education policies, many young people are unemployed and are moving abroad. So, education should be linked with the lives of the people. That is why we are bargaining with the government for quality education, inclusive education and education for all.” Adhikari also highlighted the fact that about 13% of school-aged children are out of school. “How can we bring them into school? These practical considerations present a great challenge. Likewise, there are specific problems, such as educating children in mountainous areas, problems of drop out, girls’ education, etc. So the new education policy should target these issues.” Why is it important to start the EFAIDS Programme in Nepal?“Education and health are the two pillars of the development of nations,” Adhikari said. “To fulfil these two pillars, teachers’ organisations have much work to do. Both of these issues, Education for All and HIV and AIDS, are directly related with society. In Nepal teachers can influence change, teachers can speak to remove misinformation, the misunderstanding of society. So we want to reach society through this programme.” Shrestha noted that: “In the global context, Nepal is a very small country but with so many problems, and we are concerned with improving our country…. Concerns over education are now joined by an awareness of HIV/AIDS as an issue. So, we want to mobilize our members to minimize this problem…. We also feel the programme will help the working culture of our unions.” This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 27, September 2008.