By Megh Raj Ale and Rupa Joshi
BIRATNAGAR, Nepal, 13 June 2012 – Last month about 250 children in their school uniforms marched noisily around the central market in Biratnagar, in eastern Nepal, behind a banner proclaiming ‘Allow us to study’.
They shouted slogans, rang bells, blew whistles and clanged together steel utensils, and carried signs reading ‘Let schools remain as Zones of Peace’, ‘We are not just the future, we are today’, and ‘Search for alternatives to closures’.
The children, part of the Network of Working Children’s Clubs of Morang District and Biratnagar Municipality, were protesting efforts to close schools during ‘bandas’ –political strikes that have shut down roads and businesses around the country as groups try to influence the development of a new national Constitution.
“The political parties and groups who have called for these bandas have been toying with our future by not allowing us to attend school,” said 12-year-old Niraj Malla, Assistant Secretary of the Working Children’s Clubs Municipal Coordination Committee. “And our parents have also not been able to work and earn a living due to these closures.”