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Shuttered schools

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
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From the Nepali Press

Radheshyam Adhikari in Sikshak Magazine, June-July

Near Darbar Marg is the dormitory for the Tin Dhara Pakshala Sanskrit School. The institution has a glorious socio-political history because this is where students first raised slogans against the Rana regime. The tradition of government support for free food and lodging for students of Sanskrit is continuing. Yet, when you see it today from the street it looks less like a school and more like a shopping centre. Its location near the business hub of Darbar Marg has been a curse for the school.

The April 2015 earthquake badly damaged the historic Darbar School in the heart of Kathmandu next to Rani Pokhari. This was a school opened by the Ranas to educate their relatives, but eventually others also got the chance. This was the first-ever community school in Nepal, but despite its cultural importance it is still in ruins two years after the earthquake.

At a recent meeting about repairing the building, someone reportedly said: “Let’s build a shopping centre here and allow the school to run in a small corner from the income.” It may make business sense to put forth a proposal like that, but what is the view of society, community, education sector and the state about this? What should it be thinking?

Another historic institution of learning is Juddhodaya High School located in Thamel. Because the neighbourhood is now Kathmandu’s tourist centre, it has been converted into a business centre. Even if you are right outside, no one knows there is still a school there.

Tribhuvan University has had much of its property converted to commercial use, other buildings are in the process of being turned into shopping areas. This is a gross misuse of land that was given to the University by the government and other donors for higher education.

These are just a few examples of how the property owned by government schools have now become prime real estate. The schools have been reduced to a tiny portion of the property, and the rest of the land turned into malls. We have to ask ourselves: who do a school’s assets belong to? Is it for the school committee to do as it likes? Is it for the students? Is it for the teachers?  If there are no students what will the teachers do?

A school should not just be classrooms. It has extra-curricular activities in playgrounds for physical activities for students. A school should not sell off its property at the expense of the educational or physical development of its students. The school grounds in the city centre provided shelter for thousands of families. It is time for the school management committees to think about how to reconstruct schools after the earthquake while keeping the open spaces.

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