The five-day Nepal bandh called by the underground Maoist party is going to affect 250,000 students who are to appear in this year's annual School Leaving Certificate examination. The bandh is called from 2 April, which is the day the exams start. Still, the student unions are silent about the bandh and the effect it will have on the students and their exams.
The Nepali Congress and its youth wings, namely the Tarun Dal and the Nepal Students' Union have not spoken out strongly against the Maoist call for a nationwide shutdown. Similarly, the main opposition CPN-UML and its youth wings are equally passive. Other parties in the opposition are also inert-they have issued statements, but none has initiated a joint action against the call for the bandh, which will affect the nation very adversely.
Despite this, the spokesperson at the Ministry of Education is hopeful that the political parties and their youth wings will aid in ensuring that the annual examinations can be conducted smoothly. "We have mobilised all the security agencies, and hope that all the political parties, their sister organisations and civil society will join in our endeavour to provide security to the students," says Yub Raj Pandey.
When the government is so openly seeking the participation of other political parties and their youth wings in ensuring the SLC exams are administered without a hitch, why are the political parties not acting. "We are ready to support the government," Bisha Prakash Sharma, President of the Nepal Students' Union said. However, he did not explain how his organisation would go about that. "We will discuss it with other student unions and work out a plan to provide protection for students taking the SLC examination," Sharma said, without announcing any timeframe.
Yagya Raj Sunuwar of the All-Nepal Free Students' Union also claimed that his union is willing to offer assistance to the government for security during the SLC exams, but he does not have a concrete plan either. "We are holding discussion within our union, and with other unions too," he said.
Nepali student unions have a history of fighting each other physically on various non-student political issues. But they seem reluctant to share their zeal and strength to fight united against this attack by the Maoists on the future of over 250,000 students. "There are examples in world history when student unions have put aside their differences and united to fight a national crisis," says educationist Dr Man Prasad Wagle. "If Nepali students had rallied around the common cause of ensuring security, they might have won the hearts of the SLC examinees and their parents," he added.