Access to schools : A far cry for rural areas !

Kathmandu - This week policy matters were reported the most in the media including news as PM directs ministry to design masterplan for overall development of education sector and complaint against schools for defying government order. The matter of access to school in the rural municipality is being reported frequently in the media recently. The news on Covid matters continued this week as well.  

-  A piece of news reported the challenges of students of Aanbukhairani Rural Municipality, Tanahun to reach schools. It shared that students have to face the risk of flood and landslides during the rainy season. The children are at high risk of wild animal attacks in Tanahun. For girl students, the journey to school is riskier considering the chances of becoming victim of sexual assault. The students said they were ready to take the risk only because of teachers who encouraged them to study hard and created a children-friendly teaching-learning environment in the school. Ward 5 Chairman said students were compelled to undertake the risky journey every day due to lack of school nearby. He was quoted stating that the local school could not operate secondary level classes due to less number of students. He added that students from other villages were compelled to go to the school in a different village.

Grade based teachers and assistance of technology could make it feasible for schools to function with lower numbers of human resources. It will need an innovative approach to redefine the relation and role of teacher and students, but this could be a better solution, to forcing students to travel at risk for a very long distance to access secondary school. It should be noted that education can’t be gained at the risk of life and safety. And the government should not plan the system based on personalizing risk while the benefits are public. The school and the government should take the responsibility to ensure safe access to education for all and not consider costs over safety even in cases if it meant to invest more for some students where need be.

-  A piece of news stated that despite the government’s decision to shut down schools to prevent adverse effects on the health of children from air pollution, dozens of local levels are operating schools.  It stated that the ministry had provided the authority to local levels to decide operation of schools for Covid prevention. According to the ministry officials, the municipality can assess the situation in its area and decide whether it is possible to run schools or not.

- Another news stated that a complaint has been filed against schools in Birtamod, of Jhapa accusing them of putting schoolchildren’s health at risk by defying the government order closing schools considering the hazardous level of air pollution across the country. The government had declared closure of schools for four days effective from citing the smog that has dangerously blanketed the entire country lately. The guardians and teaching staff had filed a complaint with the Education Development Coordination Unit, Jhapa, accusing Birtamod Education Committee, PABSON, N-PABSON for putting children’s health at risk. 

- A letter to the editor responded to a public notice from the Ministry of Finance seeking the opinion of the public in the budget to be prepared for the coming fiscal year. The letter of recommendation had called on the government to dedicate a higher percent of funds in education as per government’s commitment to the world community. To dream of economic development without the upliftment of public education would be a baseless ambition it stated. It also demanded funds to be dedicated for professional development of teachers, their promotions, rewards and punishments mechanisms, and strong monitoring in the coming budget.

- News stated that the Prime Minister has directed the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology to design a masterplan for the overall development of the education sector and utilization of human resources. At a programme organised at the official residence of the prime minister to hand over the report with schools selected for the President Educational Reform Programme, the Prime Minister asked the ministry to unveil the masterplan reflecting the current state of education, future action plan and employment assessment. A budget worth Rs 5.65 billion had been allocated for development of physical facilities, including classroom, toilet, information technology, lab, library, new technology, physical infrastructure, data centre, among others, in the selected schools. 

- A news story on ‘Why do students get beaten?’ was covered in the media including various incidents of physical punishment across Nepal. It concluded that dissatisfaction in the profession itself, family issues and no motivation for teachers in teaching methods are causing the rise in physical punishment incidents by teachers.  An editorial article expressed that teachers need to understand that punishing students in the name of discipline is not only beyond their commitment for creating a teaching and learning environment, but is a criminal offense. If the teacher can give the right motivation, the student can learn from mistakes, which is a process of learning. Similarly, school administrations and local governments should train teachers on impunity. Parents and society should also monitor this aspect, expressed the article. 

- Other news included Workshop on quality education for marginalised girls held and Scholarship for paying fees through E-Sewa. An international news stated primary schools around Syria will close down indefinitely next week amid a severe increase of coronavirus cases in the war-torn country, while universities will suspend classes for only two weeks and high schools will remain open. An opinion article again this week expressed its concern for increasing politics in the education sector. 

Abbreviations : COVID- Corona Virus Disease, RM- Rural Municipality, TU- Tribhuvan University, KU-Kathmandu University, AFU- Agriculture and Forestry University, MoEST- Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, TUSC- Tribhuvan University Service Commission, NGOs- Non-Governmental Organizations, TUSC- Tribhuvan University Service Commission, CDC: Curriculum Development Centre, ECD- Early Childhood Development, SEE- Secondary Education Examination 

'Education this Week' is a joint effort to analyze the press coverage of education in Nepal’s selected print media published in Kathmandu. The main aim of this effort is to identify and explain major education issues picked up by the media and give back and foreground the news. This, we believe, will help policy makers and other responsible people to keep abreast with ongoing concerns and discussions on and around education. EduKhabar, in collaboration with the Center for Educational Policies and Practices (CEPP), has produced this analysis based on the news printed in Kantipur (Nepali) and The Himalayan Times (English) between 31 March-6 April 2021 (18-24 Chaitra, 2077) - Editor.

Read this analysis in Nepali : विद्यालय शिक्षामा पहुँच : दुर्गम क्षेत्रका दु:ख !