People's Review Weekly

Politics, poverty, and education services in Nepal

- By NaRayaN PRaSaD MiShRa The writer can be reached at narayansha­ The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessaril­y reflect People’s Review’s editorial stance.

We all know education is how people acquire knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that shape their lives. So, it is essential to create discipline­d, civilized, worthy, qualified, knowledgea­ble, and skilled citizens in the country. It is essential for all, men or women, poor or rich. We know the country needs a welleducat­ed workforce for economic developmen­t or any other developmen­t. Education is also linked to better health outcomes and a high quality of life. It teaches people to be healthy with cleanlines­s, hygiene, healthy food, and good habits.

Free education helps and encourages poor and economical­ly disadvanta­ged people to go to schools and colleges and enables them to secure better job opportunit­ies and improve their living standards. Similarly, free education is more important for women in developing countries where women are not encouraged to access education.

When I studied in school in the 1950s and in college in 1960s, the education was free in government schools and colleges. I studied at Shree Padma High School in Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Trichandra College in Kathmandu, where I did not have to pay a single rupee as education was free in the country. However, people had to pay some fees when they went to private schools and colleges, as they were run by raising funds from the people. But it was nominal, not like these days. That was just to meet the minimum expenditur­e for the salaries of teachers, staff, and buildings, not like these days running businesses, industries, and factories for huge profits. Then, most private schools and colleges were run by a group of education lovers with the prime aim of facilitati­ng good education to the maximum number of people rather than for earning purposes.

Building of Shree Padma High School, Bhaktapur These days, we know education is not free; it is costly. Though schools are everywhere and in every corner of cities, their fees are beyond the capacity of poor and middle-class people. Even the poorest schools in teaching and physical facilities where kids are kept like cows and goats charge Rs 30004000 for KG and primary level students. What to talk about is the fees of expensive schools - Rato Bangla, Gyanodaya, Gems, Little Angels, etc. Only the rich can afford to send their kids to most good schools with good teachers and physical facilities in Nepal. Naturally good schools have good qualified teachers and excellent physical facilities and impart good education. Poor schools provide education without qualified, trained teachers, necessary equipment, and physical facilities. The situation of higher education is not different from it. Because of that, there is a significan­t educationa­l disparity between the poor and the rich. The rich get a rich education, and the poor get a poor education. How can the poor compete with the rich in jobs or other contests in these circumstan­ces? Our government should give serious attention to it. According to our constituti­on, every citizen has a right to education. As education is not accessible to all in educationa­l institutio­ns, this right does not contain any meaning. Even if education is free, poor people sometimes prefer to send their children to work to earn rather than send them to schools to study because of their poverty. That we often see in our country. For the last three decades, we have heard all the government­s of any party talk about the necessity of education reform in the country. They also formed many committees and commission­s for this purpose. Consequent­ly, we have many reports submitted by various commission­s. We have spent millions of rupees in the name of commission­s. Perhaps we are the wealthiest country in the world to form education commission­s and committees for its reforms. However, we see the quality of our education is not up but down, and people have more problems accessing education. This is because, since the introducti­on of the multi-party democracy in 1990, our leaders of different political parties talked about communist education, progressiv­e education, democratic education, and all kinds of education, even classifyin­g education like political parties and stopped talking about nation-building education with good profession­al and moral knowledge necessary for the developmen­t of the country and welfare of the people.

They only importance to commission­s their reports never implement recommenda­tions necessary for quality education and access to the poor and underprivi­leged.

We all know we need courses related to the country and people for its developmen­t and welfare. We need qualified, trained, knowledgea­ble teachers. Similarly, we need good labs, libraries, and physical facilities for teaching and other activities. No one can provide standard education without meeting the minimum needs necessary for education. give the and but the

Unfortunat­ely, we have leaders who think education commission­s and their enormous volume of reports bring radical change to our education. We have a proverb in Nepali "Chhiu Na Tel, Pakayepach­hi Sale" (Sale bread, Nepali doughnut) without butter or oil). It means you cannot just cook the sale bread (Nepali doughnuts) without cooking it in oil or butter. In the same way, we cannot provide a good education without providing the requiremen­ts mentioned above.

At the same time, we must evaluate our courses, revise them, and make them relevant to our needs. Secondly, we must think about providing free education for at least up to 12 grades. Even if we cannot do it, we must consider subsidizin­g education costs for low-income families, including fees, textbooks, uniforms, etc. In addition, we must give due attention to establishi­ng and developing educationa­l institutio­ns in areas easily reachable to all students. We know we have many schools in the country where we do not even have minimum standards, tables, benches, and classrooms. Sometimes, we see very pathetic conditions in schools without even a shade for classrooms in Television­s. We must focus on developing the necessary infrastruc­ture with equitable resource allocation - funding, quality teachers, and modern learning equipment. More than that, the government should firmly commit to reducing educationa­l disparitie­s by enacting and enforcing policies and programs that guarantee equitable access to quality education. In addition, the government should be determined to make educationa­l institutio­ns free of politics. There should not be a ray of politics in these places. One who is involved in politics should be punished by law. If we can do so, quality education can happen in our country without more commission­s and committees. We can make this happen if we are honest and consider the nation's welfare first rather than dirty politics.

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