Indifference to educationSuccessive governments have failed to address the concern related to the supply of textbooks.
When Finance Minister Janardan Sharma presented a Rs1.79 trillion budget in Parliament for the fiscal year 2022-23 on May 29, various observers quickly dismissed it as a populist budget. While the government's annual financial plan has been primarily seen to target the upcoming elections and reflects little of recurring issues, there is little to suggest that previous budgets have been sufficient to alleviate the perennial problems revolving around education. One primary concern successive governments have failed to address is related to the supply of textbooks. Schools in remote regions of Nepal often kick start the academic year in the absence of textbooks, to the absolute dismay of the students.
There are schools in some remote regions that haven’t had textbooks for the entire period of the academic year. It begs the question: Do the lofty words uttered in Parliament about improving general education and linking education to skill and skill towards the provision of employment mean anything? Or are they just like the scores of other well-intended schemes highlighted during the budget’s presentation that are confined to mere rhetoric with a promise to improve the lives of the ordinary, but stop short of achieving anything relevant?
Many young children in remote regions are expected to lend a hand to aid their families in making ends meet. The elders in the families have little understanding of the benefits of education. They, therefore, fail to emphasise the value of education to their children, all in the expectation that their work would contribute to alleviating the family’s economic hardship. And this conscious deprivation of providing their children with the necessary basic education continues the vicious cycle of poverty and problems they find themselves in.
And the government’s indifference to their plight can be summed up as nothing but a cruel joke on the lives they wish to forge through the opportunities they could otherwise avail from education. The authorities have prioritised midday meals to increase attendance which can be dubbed as a worthwhile measure, but the effort is negated by the absence of textbooks and other resources, which tends to have a profound effect on their attendance and overall learning during the year. Knowledge gaps and lack of ability among senior students to compete with their counterparts across the country could have a lasting demoralising effect on the younger students from those regions.
The government’s allocation of Rs70.5 billion for education amounts approximately to a little less than 4 percent of the total budget for 2022-23. Unfortunately, it is a synonym for investment in the education sector of several under-developed countries in stark contrast to the developed countries as per data collected by the World Bank over several years. The writing is on the wall: If we are ever to see the country’s overall development, we must start by investing more in the educational sector. If the authorities are serious about taking the country towards progress and prosperity, there needs to be more than the usual rhetoric.