Edukhabar
आइतबार, ०९ बैशाख २०८१
English

Hamro Sikshya: In favour of strong public education

शुक्रबार, ०७ पुस २०७४

Kathmandu - The school hour starts at 9 am in the morning. But Suva Baral (name changed) reaches the gate of her school – Koteshwor Sarashwati Secondary School—after 11 a.m. She looked scared as she set her foot towards her class.

She encountered with Principal Pushpalal Kunwar inside the school premise. He angrily asked, ‘Why are you late? How can a 10th grader be so negligent?’

Baral was in tears. She said, ‘My master asks me to work till 10 am so I cannot reach school in time. Today, I came without eating food.’

Kunwar looked sad as he heard the reason. He said such misery of students was the reason of poor results delivered by community schools.

Suva’s case is an example. The community schools in Nepal host students from poor families with weaker financial and social status.

Principal of Shanti Niketan School Bhaktapur Mahendragopal Karmarcharya says, ‘We are teaching children of very poor families.’

Of the total students studying in schools across Nepal, 83 percent have access to education through community schools. Experts say there is a growing mind-set that kids of ‘rich and powerful’ people should go to private schools for education. Former Vice Chancellor of Tribhuwan University Kedarbhakta Mathema says the ill-sightedness of political leaders is to blame for the situation.

‘The education sector has become a playground of politicians,’ he comments. ‘This should immediately stop. There should be no gaps between rich and poor while sending their kids to school. We need to make our community schools strong.’

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The constitution of Nepal has said right to education is the fundamental rights of the citizen. It has committed for compulsory and free basic education and free secondary education. This means that it is the responsibility of the state to fulfil all the educational responsibilities in schools. The constitution says that the local bodies are responsible for overseeing the school education. The domination of central administration for school education now no longer exists because of this constitutional provision.

Ramkrishna Thapa, a teacher at a community school in Banepa says, ‘With the handover of the authority to the local units, I am optimistic that there will be positive changes in community education.’

Experts say the implementation of the constitution provision faces serious challenges. Figures show around eight percent of children of the school going ages are still deprived of education.  Around 4 percent kids are leaving schools without completing education.

The government needs to focus on increasing investment in education to address problems like this. Nepal has committed to allocate 20 percent of its total budget in education at the international forums. However, the funding in recent years, is declining. This year the allocation in education was just 10 percent of the total budget. Experts have said the reduction in education budget shows government’s lack of commitment towards public education. This is also against the commitments of the sustainable development goals. This will have a long term implication for the country.

Professor Mathema says the elected local representatives should demonstrate more responsibility and be vibrant to mobilise resources for education. The political parties should not only take policy level decisions but also play significant role in the implementation of the constitutional provision. The local governments through their first assembly meeting have passed policies, programmes and budget related to education.

Former Finance Secretary Krishna Hari Banskota says the local budget will be complete only if the local governments allocate 20 percent of the budget in education. He says, ‘All the 753 local bodies should compulsorily allocate 20 percent of their budget in education.’

Education expert Manaprasad Wagle expressed worry over trend of decrease in budget. He said hands of local governments should not be tied after providing them greater role in education. ‘There should be proportional allocation of budget for allocation. Of the 100 million rupees allocated for rural municipalities and 1.26 billion rupees allocated for metropolitan cities, a considerable amount should be spent in education. The local assemblies should also make laws committing to invest certain percentage of income in education.’  He said the government should ensure that education budget allocated for local bodies will not be reduced in future.

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Action Aid Nepal has partnered with various organisations in Kailali and Doti districts to address this concern through progressive local resource mobilisation in local bodies to uplift education quality project.  The project aims to strengthen public education by ensuring that certain percentage of the tax would be spent in education. Based on that project, Edukhabar has prepared weekly radio programmes discussing about the situation of public education, its challenges and opportunities forward. There is a requirement of another separate programme to discuss the achievements of the project.

But at present, our conclusion is that the overall educational reform in Nepal is not possible without ensuring reforms in public education. We discussed the views of relevant stakeholders including government officials before starting the programme in May 30. We identified several issues for our radio programme for that discussion.

We have discussed how much prepared and careful are local bodies to implement their new responsibilities. We have also tried to make them more careful in areas which they were ignoring. We also tried to bring different stakeholders together and make them understand better.

Of the investment in education, most of the amount is spent in salaries and other facilities of teachers and other education related infrastructures. There is not much investment in improving the quality of education. The results of the community schools are degrading due to lack of education related logistics and lack of trainings for teachers. We also conducted discussion with representatives of political parties who have invested in education. The investment in education is a long term investment for the country. With additional responsibilities, the leadership of local governments should demonstrate more responsibility. The country has adopted federal system and the responsibility to look after school education has come under the jurisdiction of the local bodies. The commitments made by some of the local bodies are praiseworthy and it has brought hopes that the quality of community education would improve in the long-term.

The teachers, principals, students, school management committees are some of the stakeholders closely looking into education. The ward chairmen of the municipalities or rural municipalities are also the key representatives. They are the ex-officio members of the school management committees and we found that they were committed for reforms in public education.

We discussed about resources mobilisation, expectations and plans of local bodies towards implementing their local rights. Our programme didn’t just focused on Kailali and Doti districts. We also covered three districts of Kathmandu valley and could also bring contents from Kavre, Sindhupalchowk and Makawanpur districts among others.   

Strong community schools are the pillars of the country. The school administration, teachers, guardians, students, government officials and local bodies all should be active towards this. It is the need of time to ensure that certain percentage of the tax paid by the public would be spent on the development of community schools. This will strengthen the situation of both Nepal’s education and community schools. We have concluded that our efforts made in the last year have supported the local bodies to support some extent. We have concluded that we need to manage both our concept along with resources to strengthen the quality of public education.

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