The federal government should let local governments take care of educationRespective governments need to work within the parameter of their jurisdiction to make sure that innocent children do not suffer unnecessarily.
The current debate in the education sector revolves around constitutional provisions that ensure certain rights to the people. Schedule 8 of the constitution explicitly states that local governments have the authority to manage school-level education. Nowhere is the reluctance to devolve power from the federal to the local government more evident than in the education sector. And now, in the latest episode of the federal government versus the local government, the Centre for Education has threatened to cut student facilities if public schools don't update student data.
The Centre for Education had asked schools to log all information regarding their students into the Integrated Education Management Information System by June. With no response from schools, the centre had postponed the deadline three times, with September 17 as the final deadline. However, the agency still hasn’t received data from hundreds of schools from across the nation. Owing to this, the Centre for Education then issued a circular to local governments on Monday asking them to ensure that all public schools comply with its directives by Friday. But the local governments, on their part, maintain that they are ready to share student data with the centre provided they have the required staff to upload it.
The Constitution of Nepal authorises local governments to govern the education sector up to grade 12. The task includes curriculum design, teacher management, conduct of examinations and evaluation of students. Paying teachers and support staff, building infrastructure, issuing school operation licences, upgrading schools and monitoring them also comes under the jurisdiction of local governments. Until now, school education was controlled by the centre.
At present, there are 29,000 government schools in the country providing basic education. Including private schools, the total number rises to 36,000. But the quality of public schools remains dismal. With the federal and local governments on a collision course with each other regarding their jurisdiction, it is the students who will keep on suffering even more with the latest incident being a case of the grass getting trampled when two elephants fight.
Local governments have time and again warned the federal government about the latter overstepping its jurisdiction. In fact, earlier this year, the Municipal Association of Nepal and the National Association of Rural Municipalities in Nepal, the umbrella bodies of local governments, even took their grievances to the prime minister. Yet, nothing seems to have changed. The federal government wants to maintain a tight grip over the education sector while local governments want to exercise their autonomy.
It is imperative for the federal government to get out of its old mindset and devolve power to the local government as enshrined in the constitution. It is high time the respective governments settled their disputes and worked within the parameter of their jurisdiction to make sure that innocent children do not suffer unnecessarily.
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