A Revolutionary School: Raising a New Generation for a New Nepal
Posted by Mike E on September 20, 2009
In the U.S. there is a lot of debate reforming education — and a story like this cuts into that important discussion from a startling angle. It raises the possibility of a radically new society, and the role of education in THAT process. Not “preparing” kids better for “success” in this one — but making them conscious and critical actors in a great historic transformation.
The following is part of the series of reports made by members of the World Peoples Resistance Movement from Britain and Ireland currently who are visiting Nepal. The full series is available both here on Kasama (where we are posting articles as they arrive) and on the WPRM-Britain’s own site.
Educating Revolutionary Successors: A Maoist Model School in Jiri
Our journey started, as many do in Nepal, with a five hour bus trip where the only available free space was the roof. Although the journey was long it was only just over 100km, following narrow, windy mountain roads which were bumpy and at times treacherous. The roof however provided stunning views of the scenery and the opportunity to meet many local people, including a family of seven brothers and two sisters who found us a great source of amusement but were eager for us to visit their village and stay with their family. They were very friendly and not reserved at all, especially the girls unlike in many parts of Nepal and Asia in general, but we politely told them of our need to get to the town of Jiri in Dolakha district, east of Kathmandu.
Jiri is quite a remote town, of average size and the start of the popular trek to the Everest base camp. For this reason we were straight away accosted by hotel managers looking for business in the off-peak season. As with many tourist hotels in Nepal the managers are supporters of Nepali Congress and, indeed, the deposed royal family. In these areas images of the Dalia Lama are numerous. Our first port of call in Jiri was the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) office, a hive of activity compared to the cemetery stillness of the Nepali Congress office opposite. There we met the Area Secretary Comrade Kulbindra, various Young Communist League (YCL) activists and a teacher from the Sahid (Martyrs) Memorial Boarding School. After a brief chat over Nepali tea, we were asked whether we wanted to walk up the easy of the difficult route to the school, which was high up a mountain. Doubting that the school could be on the very top of the mountain we chose the difficult route, a choice that would soon come back to haunt us.
We set off eager about the people we were going to meet and the knowledge we were going to gain, but after ten minutes all we could think of was resting! Half way up the rain started. Being British we didn’t mind, but it gave us a good excuse for a rest. We stopped in the house of a peasant family who told us that they were a Maoist family and that during the People’s War (PW) they had fed and sheltered Maoist guerrillas on numerous occasions. They wouldn’t let us leave without a feed of boiled potatoes and eggs as well as a beaker of warm milk. We chatted until the rain stopped before continuing the walk in the dark up the slippery mountain path through the wet vegetation, the perfect ambush point for leeches. Reaching the school we realized it was at the top of the mountain and we were well within the clouds, within the altitude of leeches, but above the mosquito line and too high for Nepali Congress!
The model school was one of five Maoist schools for the children of martyrs set up this year, with funding from the Martyrs’ Association, a government-funded Maoist organisation. Covering the central district of Nepal, this school consists of three large two-storey buildings plus a washing block. There are 101 students here, all of whom had lost at least both parents as martyrs of the PW. With seven teachers, the students range from the age of 6 to 17, with more than 60% of the students male. There is a good sense of love and care between the teachers and students, rather than a simple sense of occupational interaction. Indeed, the teachers seem to act as the children’s new family. The students learn maths, science, Nepali, English and a general course on Maoism, a fully Maoist curriculum that differs from government and of course private schools. They learn about Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Prachanda. They also learn about Che Guevara, particularly his sacrifice and revolutionary spirit to change the world. They also study the background of the PW, about capitalism and communism and the need for Cultural Revolution, to destroy the old feudal culture and replace it with a new one. To a great extent they do this through the medium of art; music, dance and comedy.
A programme of entertainment had been planned for that evening, including songs about fighting and sacrifice for the revolution, helping the children understand the necessity of struggle for a Maoist future and the cause for which their parents died. Three young girls started dancing and were soon joined enthusiastically by some of the teachers. We were introduced to one young boy who was famous in the school for his comedy routine which included impersonations of a dog and Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, but sadly we did not have time to hear this. At the end of the programme children came on to the stage to welcome us to the school and we were suddenly hit by the emotion of the sacrifice these children themselves had made. The head teacher Anil Bhattarai, who spent the performance sitting amongst the children, all eager to sit on his lap, also said a few words of welcome, and we were very impressed by his obvious affection for the children and the teachers. At night we were given a bed each in the guest room which we shared with one of the teachers and the area secretary.
We were woken at 5:30am to the sound of children already up and about. Over tea in the dining hall we had an opportunity to talk more with the teachers on subjects ranging from the political situation in Britain to the current policies of the UCPN(M). We also learned that the school was at the top of the mountain because high ground was relatively free of disease and there was good access to water and wood. The buildings had previously been home to a private school which had moved to the town and become a community school because of the pressure of Maoist-led strikes against “the supermarket of education”. We also saw in the light of the morning a large playing field and an area for volleyball and badminton. There was also a large field where the teachers and students together cultivated potatoes, cauliflowers and various other vegetables which were used for school meals. This reminded us of an important idea from the Cultural Revolution, that students and teachers should also play a role in production and strive for self-sufficiency. The students and teachers also ate together and were responsible for washing their own plates afterwards. The dormitories slept five children in each and looked comfortable. They were not over-crowded and seemed to breed the great sense of community in the school.
Leaving the school we began the slow descent back down to Jiri. We had said goodbye to all the teachers and the students, who gave us a ‘lal salam’ (red salute) to send us on our way. One teacher welcomed us back to the school again after the establishment of socialism in Nepal. This possibility seems still closer than before. As the UCPN(M) is still strategically involved mainly in the destruction of the old semi-feudal, semi-colonial state, there are however important examples in practice of the embryonic future Maoist state. This school is one of many such examples.