Kathmandu - The constitution has brought the secondary school education under the jurisdiction of the local bodies. Based on the allocation of responsibilities in the annexes 8 and 9 of the new constitution, the elected local bodies have held their council meetings and formulated policies, programmes and budget regarding their educational goals.
Stakeholders have stressed that the local bodies should accord top priority to education as it sets the foundation of development.
In the past, under the centralised system operated by the Ministry of Education, the education policy was formulated on the priorities set by the concerned bureaucrats. However, the constitutional provision has given greater authority to the local bodies. With the handover of the responsibility, discussion now is focused on how the elected representatives will arrange resources to fund the secondary level education.
Radhakrishna Mahat, the Principal of Namuna Machhindra Higher Secondary School, says the elected representatives themselves should focus on funds required to reform and strengthen the educational sector. He said there would be the need of adequate budgets to improve the quality of education and for that optimum utilization of local resources is a must.
'Many institutions in local level are yet to come under the purview of tax. If we can bring all of them under the tax net, the local bodies would have greater income,' he says adding that proper management of the collected revenue could pave way for increase of investment in education.
Stakeholders are optimistic that the greater roles conferred to local bodies in public education by the constitution would yield positive outcome. There are hopes that this could uplift the quality of education that has sharply degraded in recent years.
However, there are few challenges too. The official working in the education related offices in different parts of the country has already come under the jurisdiction of the local bodies from mid-July. But the government is yet to decide how to manage them properly.
Experts say adequate budget is required to implement the new constitutional rights. They say that the government should find out ways to generate revenues required for investment in education.
Principal Mahat says there is a need to spread awareness among people regarding payment of taxes. 'If the elected representatives can assure people that their taxes would be spent on right areas, people will definitely support the initiative,' he says adding that the revenue then can be invested in development works along with educational sector.
In addition to this, other options could be imposing tax on different development works and local level natural resources to fund education, says Principal Mahat. The headmaster of Gyan Nikunja Higher Secondary School Gyankaji Maharjan supports this view.
He says a reliable commitment from elected representatives can help increase in investment and gather funding for public education. 'If we utilize the tax properly, we can provide free education to all and even curb corruption. The local bodies need to increase their investment in education and work towards finding the resources.' He said the budget allocation should be done based on the needs of the school.
Education Resource Person of Kathmandu district Khagaraj Joshi says the elected representatives should focus on management of sources for financing the secondary level education. He suggested that the local governments should identify and mobilize the local resources in a scientific manner and utilise those funds for improving the quality of education.
He suggested that income from tourism tax, local natural resources, development activities, day to day income can be funneled towards the educational sector. 'All of such activities in local bodies should now come under the purview of taxation. The local bodies should create a separate fund related to education.'
Resource person Joshi also says the central government should not immediately detach itself from its responsibilities. He said all the local bodies have different weakness and strength and there is a variance in their financial capacities so the central budget should continue to support the local bodies.