The school bus winds along the mountain road in the remote village of Kavre, Nepal. The bus is filled with the laughter and chatter of teenagers as they make their way to school, their exams are over and for now they can relax a little. But just a few weeks ago, when their school was forced to close down, they weren’t even sure they would be able to take their exams. At the end of February their school principle was accused of raping a 13-year-old student. Two weeks later the accusation led to a vicious attack, forcing the school to close and leaving the students in fear and confusion.
The school of 600 pupils was attacked by an unidentified group; the group set fire to the school bus and caused mass destruction to school property, setting fire to the school computer, smashing windows and kicking doors down before chasing and attacking the school principle. One hundred and seventy-seven of the students are residential, and had no safe home to run to as the chaos ensued.
Peace Direct funds the Youth Alliance for Peace and Environment (YAPE) a local NGO which stops conflicts from escalating into full scale violence. As the students came under attack YAPE’s representative Bhoraj called the police and the fire brigade to bring the situation under control. They called the local community development organisation and worked with them to coordinate the safe rescue of the children caught in the midst of the violence.
The girl who had been raped had attempted to take her own life in despair and the attack on the school was seen as retaliation for her suffering. The Principal was arrested, and the girl was taken to hospital where she could get the care she needed, but the school remained closed, and tensions in the town remained dangerously high.
Bhoraj began to collect personal reports of what had happened, for four days he talked to the students and the villagers to gain a full picture of the situation, and he collaborated with politicians and journalists to make sure that the attack and the rape would get the attention it needed. He discovered there were existing tensions with a neighbouring school, and it may have been them who carried out this attack. Both of the school authorities were affiliated to different political parties, and political manipulation may have played a role in the school attack.
The case is ongoing, and the Principal and his attackers remain in custody. YAPE is monitoring the school authorities and working with local communities to reduce the likelihood of violence. But through careful consultation YAPE has worked with the school authorities, the student’s parents and the local community to calm the situation. As a result the school reopened on 15 March, in time for the children to take their exams.
All it took was four days and the cost of car hire, accommodation and a few phone calls to ensure the children could continue their education without fear of further attacks. YAPE is entirely funded by donations from individuals, without your generous gifts Bhoraj could not have travelled to gather the personal reports and he would not be able to continue to monitor the situation.