Beyond grand promisesOnly by making quality education an easily attainable fundamental right can we dream of a better tomorrow.
The 58th Children's Day is being observed across the country today to celebrate children. However, just as in years past, it is going to be yet another day of false promises and rosy pictures for 40 percent of the total population. Each year, officials make grand announcements without doing anything concrete to solve the existing problems. They have repeatedly vowed to shoulder responsibilities and each time failed to keep their promises. But who has the time to pause and consider what the children need and want? And who would have the zeal to work for them to bring about a fundamental change in their situation?
Be it in the failure to deliver textbooks on time, misuse of mid-day meals, errors in question papers or creation of the digital divide, the government has failed the kids in terms of providing quality education. A joint study by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the World Food Programme found that mid-day meals help students stay in school, preventing them from dropping out. While the programme is helpful for young students, its implementation is questionable as the budget allocated for meals is being spent on the salaries of teachers hired on a need basis.
The Post reported earlier that lack of textbooks affected regular classes in Parbat until last month. The academic year is already at the end of its fifth month, and the negligence in delivering books on time has affected the education system already made fragile by Covid-19. Children's reading habits have suffered as a result, and some have quit school or stopped taking their studies seriously. Again, they are forced to suffer due to the government's failure to invest adequately in education. Further, instances like errors in question papers prepared by the local governments show how hostile Nepal's education system is towards children.
Additionally, children have been kept away from quality education due to the digital divide, which was exacerbated during the pandemic. It has had a lasting effect on their educational opportunities and driven up the cost. Public school students and children from underprivileged communities suffered the most out of the estimated 8.2 million students who were denied access to education during the pandemic. The children, who are the country’s future, have been victims of deep social divides right from the beginning. To its credit, the government did come up with a specific guideline to bridge the digital divide during the pandemic; but again, its implementation was nothing to be proud of.
Children deserve more than grand promises from the government. It should take responsibility for the mess it has created and draft the Federal Education Act immediately to improve the education sector and assist children in overcoming the difficulties they have faced without systematic education plans. The authorities should assess what good they have done for the children, what goals they have met, and whether or not their commitments have translated into action.
The best gift the officials can give the kids on this day is to start working towards making quality education an easily attainable fundamental right and not a privilege. Only by fulfilling this responsibility today can we dream of a better tomorrow.