Nepali Times
By The Way
Anger management



After a decade-long armed conflict, Nepal is not yet at peace. The class war is giving way to a caste war, and protracted conflict over identity.

But there is another conflict that is brewing, and a harbinger was this week's attack on schools by groups affiliated to the breakaway CPN-Maoists led by Mohan Baidya. The attacks may seem to be politically motivated, but
there are deeper, and more disturbing, underlying reasons.

Nepal has a parallel education system based exclusively on accessibility and affordability. Government schools and colleges are cheap, but for the most part offer poor quality education. Private schools are more expensive, but have higher quality of education and show better results in state exams.

To talk about the unfair quality divide between public and private education may have become a futile exercise in a liberalised economy where quality comes at a price. The question really should be: why are government schools so bad?

Even so, vandalism against well-endowed private colleges should ring bells that there is something really wrong with the structure of the education system in this country.

The government and donors who support the education budget may rejoice that there are more schools in remote areas, enrolment is up, and Nepal will now meet its MDG targets for primary education, but the world has changed since those goals were set 12 years ago. To understand and cope with the complexity of social, economic and political life in the 21st century it is not enough for individuals to be literate anymore.

According to the government's 2002-2003 Economic Survey, the number of students per public secondary schools was 95.15, while the same ratio for private schools was 46.15. Similarly, the teacher-student ratio for public schools was 28, while there was approximately one teacher for every 10 students in private schools.

In 2009-2010, as the number of students in secondary public schools surged to over 500,000, the divide became even more glaring. The school-student ratio increased to 170 students and the teacher-student ratio increased to 31.42. Comparatively, the numbers stayed as low as 60.51 and 12.26 respectively for private schools.

Besides the numbers, there are unmeasured variables like infrastructure, logistics, quality of teachers and environment for education, which distinguish private education from public. The divide continues in higher education and is then forever imprinted on certificates. What is most ironical about the system is that despite of a lifelong divide in the classrooms, the students take the same tests and are marked alike in the exams. So it is not difficult to understand who has better chances of making it to the job market.

Last year thousands of young men and women, many graduates and post-graduates, applied for the 3D (dirty, difficult and dangerous) jobs in Korea, more will be applying this year. I still meet my classmate from school who was perhaps more deserving but could not complete his higher education. The state has failed in its fundamental duty of ensuring that every citizen has the freedom to choose a life of dignity.

Every year there is a shortage of text books and medicines in the remote areas, while the government increases subsidy on petrol, runs unsustainable diesel plants to light up the cities and provides various tax holidays in the name of saving jobs and encouraging business.

During one of the frequent strikes called by the parties in May, a young graduate who was vandalising a motorcycle in Pulchok told me, "I have a certificate but no job. Instead of sitting idle I am doing some politics here." You cannot expect civic behaviour from people in a country governed by uncivil priorities.

Violence should never be glorified in any form, for any end but these are times of soul searching for the more able sections of society. They must see the link between growing anarchism among the youth and the desperation they exhibit.

As long as the state cannot guarantee quality education and even out the playing field, thousands of disillusioned young minds will serve as political ammunition. And it doesn't matter which political party they belong to.

Read also:

Responsibility to protect

Certain Uncertainty

The uncritical mass, RUBEENA MAHATO
In a country where politicians get away with murder, one can't really blame their student protťgťs for setting fire to school buses

No man's land, ANURAG ACHARYA
Six years after the end of the war, land continues to be the sticking point in the peace process

1. Jang
What a load of horse manure. I'm angry, so I'll burn a school bus. May Lord Pashupatinath save us from intellectuals like these.

2. correlationdoesnotimplycausation
I have to agree with the first commentator !

Interesting that while Rubeena tells us this "We mince words and try to justify the attacks, blaming it on the frustration of jobless youth when it is plain this is about extraction and extortion" (The uncritical mass), Mr. Acharya seems to do just this.

3. A Nepali

Re: #2, "Correlationdoesnotimplycausation":

Interesting way to express yourself. Do you have evidence (correlational, predictive, causal or whatever, as per your chosen alias) that writing your comments in highlighted, colored, bolded, font-size-increased, or capitalized letters makes your viewpoint more credible to a reader, or even more likely to be read than not? To me, your style of expression above is analogous to a spoilt little brat seeking attention by stomping his feet on the ground and screaming at the top of his lungs.

4. Bina S
I understand that Anurag Acharya is a leftist and since we live in a pluralistic society we need to accept views from across the political spectrum.  But when a journalist justifies violence against children because he waves the same flag as the criminals on the streets, he loses his credentials. Also the argument that 'violence is needed to make an unresponsive state hear the voices of the marginalised' has failed spectacularly in the context of Nepal. We tested the "justified violence" hypothesis during the 10 years of war and what did we get out of  it? Devastation, loss of lives, grief and a pushing back of the country's development. Yes there is an urgent need to address the class divide in education, in politics, in the job market. But burning buses of 'rich' schools is not the way to go about bringing change Mr Acharya. 

5. 7
I just deleted a huge para by accident. Tough Luck! The unemployment binge is the macro-facet of the social/economical situation in Nepal. What he is addressing is credible enough. Well, what I meant to say is the word 'Leftist' shouldn't be thrown around so much. I'm a 'Liberal Extremist', and I won't be surprised if someone tagged me with the 'L' word just because I agree with Mr. Acharya's terms.

6. Bina S
and by liberal extremist you support dousing school buses and setting them on fire while students are still inside coz the school does not follow "national curriculum" and is Indian-owned? Is that your liberal extremism? Just call yourselves "supporters of violence for personal benefits"  

7. mohan baidhya
The very recent, and very rare and limited throwing-around of the L-word perhaps has something to do with the extreme amount of energy spent in stigmatizing and defaming the capitalists, right-wings, conservatives and even moderates. It is a time when the liberals of Nepal should unite, for they have nothing to lose. The imperialist and bourgeois in the communist sense of the term are the communists of Nepal themselves.

8. Flexible 1
I think I need some anger management techniques after reading the absolute bullsh1t in this article!!
The attacks on private schools with foreign sounding names are NOT a symptom of class war or a class war. And neither are they motivated by the failure of the government education system. If this were the case then the anger, vitriol and violence would be directed towards the Ministry of Education, or the District Education Offices. I cannot imagine under what circumstances a person would think "our government education system is crap, what can I do to demonstrate against it? I know, I will set fire to a few private school buses". What sort of a journo numty would think this, never mind a politically motivated maoist goon?
Certainly the entire Nepali society is being let down by the failings of the uneducated, incompetent, corrupt louts in the Ministry of Education. Their School Sector Reform Plan published in 2009/10 is a waste of paper and aid money, and they know it. The process has been disproven in 3 African countries where a focus on the Millennium Development Goals has led to a DECREASE in the quality of education. Not only this, but as an approximation, 75% of the Head teachers in Kathmandu have never even heard of the SSRP. So who is to blame for that, the children who go to private schools?
The writer would do much better to do some basic research and focus on reality rather than write such unsubstantiated garbage.

9. 7
I guess everyone is missing the point here. Here's the breakdown; a scenario Ė a boy steals food; the reporter writes 'Food stolen out of Hunger'. The reporter here is not justifying the act but considering the motive/cause behind it. I'm not pro-violence, far from it. I just want the reporters and readers to address and acknowledge the root of this evil. Unemployment breeds resentment and that gets reflected from the have-nots onto the have-alls. This is a perfect text-book example of class war. Again, let me make myself clear, I'm not justifying the bus-burning act by saying it is due to the economic deterioration of our country. No sir! What I mean is, without validation, the act as a whole completely reflects the bitterness of the down-trodden.¬†¬†

10. Binu

To recognize the face of violence beyond bullets and arson is somehow  perplexing to the paid columnists as your fellow co-worker and this is obvious when one compares your write-up with  " Uncritical Mass".

I appreciate your points: No one needs to glorify the violence but As long as the state cannot guarantee quality education and even out the playing field, thousands of disillusioned young minds will serve as political ammunition, it doesn't matter which political party they belong to.

I am not mincing the words to justify the incident. It has been proven several times.

11. who cares
acceptable violences:

*self defense against violence. 

*violence against those who use violence to achieve their goal, personal interest etc and their supporters.

only tough guy as a pm with clean image can bring rule of law in nepal.

and the violence going on in nepal is not between haves and haves not. it is between "free ma khana palke ka" and hard working ones. 

and the columnist is not actually maoist. he supports maoist, he supports india. which means, whoever is likely to throw a bone at him, he support that group or individual. 

some commentator in nepalitimes said a few months ago- this columnist once supported gyn bahadur, but did not get bone so he has been searching new master since then. 

12. Flexible 1

"The reporter writes food stolen out of hunger"

My point is, to use your example, the boy may have stolen food because he wanted to sell it, he may have stolen the food as an act of revenge against the owner ....

The reporter can write "boy steals food", the same as he can write "vandals burn school buses", but it a huge leap, and not one I believe, to say that this is a symptom of the class war because of and a reaction against the government education system.
I will go further and say it's crap!

13. 7


Criticizing someone's work is one thing, but intentionally derogating him is a different thing altogether. Nepali haruko yehi behora man pardaina. Put forth some educated arguments my friend. You are frustrated, I'm frustrated, everyone's frustrated. You need to find a channel that works for you and the people that surround you. Or you can opt to vent your aggression out. Go burn a school bus.

14. 7

@ Flexible 1

Yes, I completely agree. You made a valid point. But my exposition is, that is daily journalism and this is a column. Writers are 'expected' to express their views here. If it's the Govt. you're against, then why burn privately owned buses? If it's the system you wanna fight then there's no point in vandalizing private property.

15. Flexible 1
14 @7

I know what you mean, but writing a "column" doesn't excuse lazy journalism or spurious analysis. Does anybody here actually believe that the vandalising of private school buses with foreign names is a protest against the government education system? This seems like one hell of a jump to make in thinking!

Survey: Is it a protest against government education system? Yes/No

Vote now!!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)