UNICEF representative in Nepal, Suomi Sakai, has said the right to education is hampered when conflict enters the classroom and the rights of children to education and security are taken away.
Responding to a petition delivered Tuesday to UNICEF by the Concerned Citizens for a Democratic Nepal, protesting the actions of political unions against private schools, Sakai said, "Not even schools have provided a safe haven for children. This is unacceptable."
The citizen's group said that they were approaching the international agency dealing with children because the mainsteam parties were violating Nepali children's right to education by using schools as the target of political action. On Wednesday, they met leaders of the UML and the Nepali Congress and handed over letters telling them to keep politics out of schools.
The petitions demand that schools be declared zones of peace and not be used as zones for political action. Teachers and heads of schools should not be targetted, educators must be given due respect and the locking up of schools by student groups must be condemned. The petitions state that the actions against private schools violate the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The last instrument confirm that the parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education for their children, be they parochial, religious, vocational or private schools.
The government has a fundamental duty to protect schools from revolutionaries and if the government is not able to do so, then the international community has the duty to step in and act, says the petition.
In her response to the petition to UNICEF, set out in a press release, Sakai also said, "When conflict enters the classroom, when schools are disrupted or closed, when teachers are harassed, education suffers even further. It is hard for children to wake up each morning not knowing whether their schools will open. And it is devastating for children to witness threats and violent acts at school."