Will the local bodies appoint 'qualified' or 'loyal' teachers?


Edukhabar Commentary - Local governments have assumed responsibilities in almost all parts of the country except province number two. In some places they have unveiled their budget while in others they are preparing to do so. Of the laws required for the functioning of the local bodies, some have been introduced and few others are yet to come. There is confusion in the some local governments because of the absence of law while others are trying to continue their work to show the people that they want to deliver.

The central government is suggesting DO's and Don'ts to the local governments which are formed on the basis of the constitution. Local authorities have termed this as an 'infringement to their power.' They argue that the directives from the centre show that the officials in power have yet not internalized the concept of federalism. Some of the decisions taken by the local governments contravening to the Educational Act of 2028 BS and Educational Regulation 2059 BS have even triggered dispute. Can the central government control the functioning of the local governments citing the legal ambiguities; this has become one of the major questions today.

Annex 8 of the constitution has defined the jurisdiction of the local government. Based on that, the Cabinet has issued an executive order that has made 13 categories of the educational related tasks that the local bodies are authorized to do. One among them is the management of teachers and officials in schools. But it appears that the local governments are not aware of the other 12 tasks but are more focused on appointment and transfer of teachers. Some have even written letters to the District Education Offices asking not to intervene in their works. Why the focus is only on that one job, this is a very crucial question.

Every concerned stakeholder has their own arguments. One side is arguing that there is no need to accept the orders from the central government on issues that relate to secondary education. Other side is suggesting to 'wait and see' until clearer provisions are introduced by laws. The new act and regulation on education are yet to come and rules regarding the local governments are still in the process of formulation.

The education ministry is still the central authority to look after education but the local development and federal affairs ministry is overseeing the task to formulate laws regarding education. This raises question on the relevance of the education ministry at the centre. The local development and federal affairs ministry can have expertise on federalism but it cannot be an expert on specialized areas like education, forest, agriculture and land reforms among others.

It has been reported that the bill on the functioning of the local government tabled by the government in the parliament has reduced the educational related rights of the local governments. The responsibilities defined by the Cabinet for three units are as follows:

Centre

Determination on standard norms for appointment of school teachers and regulation of it.

Province

Determination on standard norms and efficiency for appointment of school teachers at the provincial level and regulation of it.

Local 

Management of teachers and staffs

 

If we look into these given rights, it can be understood that the central and provincial authorities are responsible for defining conditions, qualifications, efficiencies to prepare norms and regulating it while the management related tasks are done by the local governments. Intellectuals are saying that management defines only asking them to work the tasks for appointment depends upon those who set the standards.  But the written rule clearly implies, in our view, that the 'management' means also the appointment of teachers. The rule has not stated that the appointment of teachers would be done by the Teacher's Service Commission but officials have indicated they want to do so. The local bodies are writing to the district education offices asking not to interfere in appointment and transfer of teachers, a task they say is mandated to them by the constitution. At the same time, the Teacher's Service Commission is trying to open vacancies for teachers and even drafting its separate act. But no sides in the government have openly spoken about this.

If the local governments really want to bring in the quality education, they should work towards making the teachers more accountable. They should be clear on what type of laws are required and whether they themselves or the federal government should bring such law. They should develop a long term strategy on efficiently managing the transfer, appointment of teachers. Any action done in rush could have a long term implications. It should be made clear that whether the local governments would the authority to appoint transfer and promote teachers. If they don't have such power, will it abide to the norms of the constitution, all the stakeholders should be clear on this.

The local governments are still in the infant stage. They should work towards defining their priorities. They should be clear on whether their first priority is the quality education or transfer of teachers. The new educational calendar is already optional and schools are functioning on a normal basis. The temporary teachers are on strike. The duty of the elected officials is to hold dialogue with the school management committee to ensure smooth classes at schools. In the midst of monsoon season, they can also focus on checking whether the disaster resilient infrastructures are there in schools. They can also monitor functioning of the private schools and look whether the fees they are charging to students corresponds to the facilities promised. There are also reports that textbooks are yet to reach in many places. They can also focus on resolving this problem.

The central government is yet to take decision on deployment of bureaucrats at local bodies. The absence of law and dispute over appointment of bureaucrats suggests that the district education office would continue for some time. In the absence of law and other required officials, the local bodies are trying to make appointments of teachers in a rush and the centre itself is making the matter worse by adopting a dillydallying tactics.  Blocking transfer of teachers without evaluating the need of schools could negatively affect the learning process in schools. The official should keep this in mind.

Apart from this, the local bodies that sent letter asking the district education office not to send any teachers, they should also answer some fundamental questions. The first one, is how they are appointing new teachers? Second, who is making this appointment? Third, is this appointment neutral? Fourth, are they appointing genuine teachers or party cadres in the vacant posts?

There should be a detail home work on the availability and the need of teachers and also about the resources that will finance new teachers if the appointments are to be made. For that, collecting data from schools on those numbers can be a first step. In cities and headquarters, there are teachers whose classrooms are empty in the absence of adequate number of students while in rural villages many students are deprived from teachers to impart them education. This should also be kept into consideration while taking any decision. 

There are also concerns that the political bias is the root cause of the problem. The elected government should make it clear. In rural and urban municipalities with good infrastructures it might be easier to find efficient and talented teachers but the government should make its policy clear on how it will ensure that students in remote regions of Humla, Mugu and Dolpa in the Karnali region will get efficient teachers. The local governments should do their work but they should not rush.

It appears that the local governments want to take a short cut and move in haste while the central government wants to deal this problem on a snail pace. The only solution to this daunting challenge is that the local bodies should define the priorities, identify the sectors of reform and resources to ensure quality education. There is no any short cut.