Support enrolmentLocal governments need to be strengthened so that they can strengthen education sector
Trilochan Bhatta, the Chief Minister of Province 7, has enrolled his daughter in a community school in Dhangadhi. His move to eschew the private schools that many politicians favour for their children, even as they preach the salience of public schools, seemingly tells a lot about him. As an elected leader, he doesn’t believe that his child is entitled to privileged education, or perhaps he is serious about improving the quality of public education where his child studies. “It is meaningless urging others to enrol children in public school when your own children go to public schools,” he says. It is hard for parents to trust public schools when teachers, leaders and government employees do not seem to trust them. Perhaps CM Bhatta’s decision will motivate Province 7 to make public education a priority. But there are children who do not even get to attend school—whether public or otherwise—and government at all levels need to focus on bringing education to these kids. In Province 7 itself, there are 10,000 kids of school going age that are out-of-school.
Education Minister Girirajmani Pokharel recently said that there are 313,289 children of school going age around the country that do not receive any formal education. Worryingly, a major portion of this number—around 50 percent—is concentrated in Province 2. Even worse for Province 2, around 20 percent of enrolled children also drop out after the first grade. These statistics are alarming. The fact that this many children are deprived of any formal education is bad enough. And these are the number of children formally identified by the system—the actual number may be much higher. But to have such a large concentration in one province shows that some of the newly created federal units have a much higher hill to climb. But why such high numbers?
According to a Unicef report on out-of-school children from 2016, the fact that almost 42 percent of the country’s population live under the poverty line plays a role in children not attending school—with poverty being identified as the major barrier in blocking access to education. The report further suggests that discrimination could also play a role in blocking children from education, while child labour and migration (runaway children) also cause for the lack of enrolment or dropouts. However, the government also has to shoulder direct responsibility for children being out-of-school.
The constitution has outlined a plan for local governments to govern and regulate the education sector up to grade 12. Yet, months after constitution implementation and the swearing in of a majority government, the mobilisation of government employees in the education sector has not progressed at a satisfactory rate. More than 1,616 education sector staff have to be deployed immediately to local levels for local level education departments to function, according to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration. Only after local education departments take full shape can they be held liable for the failure to promote education. The Education Ministry should get on transferring the required staff immediately. The quotes from Chief Minister Bhatta and the Education Minister mentioned above came at student enrolment drives that are occurring countrywide. Obviously, more focus should be given to these drives—especially at regions such as Province 2—for them to be successful.