The Maoist-led Government of Nepal has vowed to eradicate illiteracy from the country within two years. Article 17(2) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal (2007) holds the State responsible for educating its people, “Every citizen shall have the right to free education from the State up to secondary level as provided for in the law.” The 2005 estimate of literacy rate stands at an average of 47.5 percent. Not only the total literacy rate remains one of the lowest in the world, but also, like in all other South Asian countries, gender remains one of the major factors in determining one’s access to education. The female literacy rate remains at 29 percent, less than half compared with that of male being more than 64 percent.
The school systems in Nepal represent its class, caste, and gender anomalies. Government Schools are meant for people from lower strata of society and the girl children. Some daughters often make their poor parents dumb-founded by asking, “Why don’t you provide us with a quality education like our brothers get in the boarding schools?”
One of the reasons why Maoists proudly identify their bloody war as “home-grown revolution” is their focus on educational discrepancy among the population. The Maoists have been vociferous as well as violent against the dual mode of education – the government vs. private education. Thousands of “English Boarding School” run by private sector were forcibly shut down and the “bourgeois education” promoting class difference was replaced with “revolutionary education” by the Maoists in their strongholds during the “People’s War”. Time and often the Maoists issued circulars warning all non-public educational institutions to either voluntarily shut down or face “dire consequences” including the “purge”.
A large section of the Nepali population still believes that the Maoists were not wrong in identifying the root problems in the education sector of Nepal, among others. However, being the largest party leading the country after the Constitutional Assembly elections, the Maoists have realized that they can not shut down the “boarding schools” which claim to provide an alternative to thousands of students who’d otherwise surely head for India and other foreign countries. Some dreamy ones even wonder what if the Maoists make it mandatory for all government staffers to enroll their children in government schools only.
Understandably, the “mastermind” Maoist Finance Minister Dr. Bhattarai had no other option except for proposing a heavy investment by the government in the education sector. Ironically, the success of all Maoist initiated programs depends on smooth cooperation from other parties in the country and a hefty contribution from abroad.
Anyway, hardly anyone would disappoint the “nth-times marginalized” girl student from a government school who believes with hope in her eyes, “We’ve suffered a lot due to our ignorance. Let’s give the Maoists a chance to prove themselves, at least in eradicating illiteracy and improving the standard of community schools”.