Kathmandu - Bimala Sunar, a ninth grader student, reaches her school every day at 9 a.m. The schedule prepared by her school states that classes would start at 10:15 a.m. however she is forced to reach school early.
Bandana Pokharel, a tenth grader student, also abides to a similar routine. Both of them are not going to school early out of their willingness. They are forced to follow the new routine because their courses are not complete due to the shortages of teachers.
The schools are supposed to conduct classes of both compulsory and optional subjects within the daily schedule that starts at 10 a.m. in the morning and ends at 4 p.m. However, the insufficient numbers of subject specific teachers has added woes to schools.
Officials say they have no other option than to start classes early for the benefits of students. “We have no position of a teacher for optional math subject in the day shift. We are still providing optional math classes for the students by hiring private teachers. He cannot provide time in the afternoon therefore we are running classes in the morning,” says Laxman Thapa, the principal of Kanti Bhairav Secondary School based in Kathmandu.
The school located at Kageshwori Manahara Municipality in the outskirts of Kathmandu is just an example. Many community schools across the country lack basic infrastructures. They do not have adequate students neither do they have required number of teachers.
Principal Thapa of the Kanti Bhairav Secondary School says there is crisis of math teachers in primary level, absence of computer teacher at the secondary level. “We have submitted letters at the district education office but they have not responded adequately,” he said.
Schools say they are mobilising their own funds to run classes for students. “If there were more vacancies of teachers, we would not have faced financial burden. We are now investing money collected in the form of donation from students to pay the salary of teachers,” adds principal Thapa. He said extracurricular activities, including operation of libraries and laboratories have been hindered due to the absence of funds. Students complain of lack of sports event, libraries and the poor quality of toilets in their school.
Currently, there is the vacancy of nine teachers at the primary level, seven at the lower primary level and nine at the secondary level in Kanti Bhairav Secondary School. This is much lower in terms of the student teacher ratio of the school. There are currently 341 students at the primary level, 221 students at the lower secondary level and 168 students at the secondary level. Of those students, 32 are physically handicapped. The school maintains that they have two sections in each grade from class 1 to class 10. Apart from this, the school also runs early childhood development classes including playgroup, nursery and lower and upper kindergartens.
The shortage of teachers has added burdens to the serving staffs of the school. Individual teachers are taking seven to eight classes in schools daily. They say such a longer exposure of work hampers the quality education.
“I don’t have a single leisure period. I feel tired and it is very difficult to take all the classes,” says teacher Kamala Shrestha. Other teachers share similar experiences.
Amidst such adverse situation, the newly elected local bodies are entrusted with the power to manage the school education up to the secondary level in their respective regions. Principal Thapa said he has urged the newly elected local representatives to help resolve the crisis of teachers in his school and has expected a positive outcome.
Krishna Hari Thapa, the mayor of the Kageshwori Manahara Municipality, says he will work to uplift the standard of school and the quality of its education. He says his election manifesto committed to uplift the quality of public schools located in the municipality.
“From our very first meeting, we have decided that we will provide required infrastructures to the community schools. We will make a team comprising teachers, representatives of the school management committee and conduct discussion with them to identify their problems,” he said.
He further said that the government so far have only provided budget to pay the salaries of the teachers. “They have not approved vacancies of additional teachers. There is no vacancy of security guards, helpers etc required for school. Many schools are facing scarcity of teachers. We are in discussion with relevant stakeholders on what the municipality can do for the management of the teachers who are hired by schools from their internal resources.”
(This storyis the part of a radio programme entitled 'Hamro Sikshya' which discusses the opportunities and challenges in public education in the new federal setup. The programme is produced by edukhabar.com with the support of Action Aid Nepal. It is aired from Radio Dhangadhi, Kailali, Radio Doti based in Doti and Radio Taha Sanchar based in Kathmandu. The radio programme can also be tuned through this link: Hamro Sikshya and also through aneroid app Edunepal.)