Election hits school enrolment campaignSchool enrolment campaign has not been able to make much headway since most people are either out participating in political rallies or listening to the political campaigners, say educators.
The door-to-door campaign for the upcoming local elections and the school enrolment campaign for the new academic session have started simultaneously. On one hand, leaders, activists and candidates of political parties are scrambling to get voters in their favour while on the other hand, school teachers are rushing door to door to have students enrol in schools.
The school enrolment campaign was greatly affected in the last two years by the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions that followed. This year, the frenzy for elections is affecting the enrolment campaign, educators say.
Narayan Adhikari, principal of Siddheshwari Secondary School in Kamalbari of Vyas Municipality-12, said that they were already behind in the enrolment programme when the election fever took hold of the country.
“Now the local level election is affecting our campaign,” he said. “With the poll campaigning going in full swing, we haven’t been able to conduct the school enrolment programme effectively.”
Siddheshwari Secondary School, which has 300 students, runs classes upto grade 12.
According to Adhikari, the teachers volunteering in the enrolment campaign have been unable to reach out to the students and their guardians because of the election rallies.
“After seeing leaders and activists of political parties march in the election campaign with flags, the teachers in the enrolment campaign have to either return or wait for the politicians to wrap up their programmes,” he said. “Political rallies have reached every village, choking their small lanes.”
For Shailendra Shah, principal of Araniko Secondary School at Thulodhunga in Bhanu Municipality-13, the upcoming elections and their campaigning have become a nuisance.
The school enrolment programme is a nationwide campaign launched by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology with an objective to bring all the children under the school system. Awareness campaigns are raised in the last week of April every year but this year, the campaign was pushed back to mid-May in several districts due to the Secondary Education Examination and local elections.
Most teachers have reported that they couldn’t make much headway with the enrolment programme since adults from most of the households they visited were either out participating in political campaigns or stepping out to listen to the campaigners.
“The teachers couldn’t meet the parents in our target households. Our campaign aims to convince parents to send their children to school but this time we haven’t been able to meet any parents,” said Shah. “We have hired qualified teachers, made arrangements for mid-day meal programmes in the school and have also developed communication technology to be used in the classrooms. But we haven’t got the chance to intimate this information to the parents.”
Schools are now worried they might not be able to bring more children into the school system this year.
Harka Bahadur Thapa, principal of Shanti Secondary School at Dubung in Rishing Rural Municipality-3, says that he is worried that the number of students may not increase in the school this year since there has been no communication between the school and the parents of school-going age children in the local unit.
“In the years before Covid, teachers used to go from house to house and explain the features of the school to the parents in detail. Based on that information, the parents would send their children to school but this year because of the election madness, we haven’t been able to reach out to our potential students and their parents,” said Thapa.
According to the data at the Education Development and Coordination Unit Office of the district, there are 441 community schools and 134 institutional schools in Tanahun. Around 13,437 students are enrolled in private schools and 60,994 in community schools, but among those in community schools, around 35,077 students have dropped out.
Dhurba Raj Poudel, head of the education branch of Bhanu Municipality, says community schools have experienced shortages of teachers, science laboratories, ICT-friendly infrastructure, libraries and necessary educational materials.
“All 10 municipalities in the district have launched the enrolment campaign with the slogan ‘Let's send all children to school and ensure their right to education’ to attract students to schools. But we haven’t been able to run our campaign effectively to inform the parents and students about the developments made in terms of education,” said Poudel.
“The municipality has collected the data of children of school-going age with the objective to have them enrolled,” he said. “But we haven’t reached several of our target households.”
Puja Thapa, a local resident of Highschooltar in Vyas Municipality-1, said that in the years before Covid, the villages would be filled with teachers around this time for the enrolment campaign, but this year the village streets are filled with political party rallies instead.
“Two years ago, teachers from various schools used to visit the villages but this year I haven’t seen any of them. I hardly see anyone but visiting politicians and their cadres carrying flags and pamphlets. Also, not many parents seem interested in the enrolment campaign this year,” Thapa said.