Brutal lessons on need for rights

8th September 2000 at 01:00

AFTER a brutal week in which teachers and schools have endured bombs, murder and kidnap by Maoists, a British-run charity is launching a human rights education programme.

Concern about human rights in Nepal has been steadily growing. Last month Amnesty International condemned both police and Maoists for the brutality of the "people's war" which has been waged for four years in the far west and mid-west.

It has so far claimed about 1,500 lives and displaced more than 60,000 people.

Maoists have been accused of recruiting child soldiers, abduction, torture and murder while the police have been accused of torture and killing civilians suspected of Maoist activities.

Last week, in the remote area of Gorka, the headteacher of a village primary school was taken from his bed and hacked to death by insurgents. He was a member of the Nepal Teachers Association, which is associated with the ruling Nepal Congress party.

In Jumla, Nepal Teachers Association district president Ishwori Datta Neupane, who is also a head, was abducted from his home after refusing to make a NRS 80,000 (pound;800) donation to the Maoist rebels.

A few nights earlier, school buses belonging to the Modern Indian School in Kathamandu were destroyed by bombs. One person was badly injured. "Explosive gelatine removed from the site suggests that Maoists were responsible," said a police source.

A bmb hurled at Vishwa Gorkha Academy made a one-

metre hole in the wall of the school on the outskirts of the city.

The school management had reportedly refused to make a donation to the All Nepal National Free Students Union (Revolutionary) which is believed to have been closely linked to the Maoist movement.

Peace Child International is training 500 Nepalese teachers in human rights using its textbook, Stand Up for Your Rights.

The training covers civil and political rights including topics such as "innocent until proved guilty"; torture, fair trials; freedom of thought and speech; the right to democracy, and the right to education.

They also look at Amnesty International's work around the world including Tibet and Burma.

The textbook, which has been translated into Nepalese, has met with a favourable response from the ministry of education and the national human rights commission, as well as from teachers.

Durga Bahadur Shrestha, spokesman for Peace Child International, said: "We want to create good citizens, to make students aware of their rights but also of their duties."

A training workshop for 45 teachers and principals has been held in the Kathmandu Valley and a further 10 workshops are planned across the country. They will focus on how human rights can be taught as a part of the social studies curriculum and in extra-curricular activities.

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