Classes began 7 months ago but students have no booksLocal authorities are actively involved in preparing school compounds for upcoming elections but have done nothing substantial to supply textbooks.
Nearly seven months into the academic year, Mugu schools are yet to receive complete sets of textbooks. This has widened the gap between the curriculum and students’ learning.
Aasha Karki, a ninth grader at Sarbodaya Secondary School in Khatyad Rural Municipality-8, and her 37 classmates have been attending school regularly but haven’t been able to complete their coursework without textbooks.
“We are yet to receive textbooks for Economics, Science and Education. Almost half the coursework has been taught in class but it is difficult to learn without a book in hand,” said Karki.
Academics have taken a backseat in many community schools in Mugu, a mountain district of Karnali Province, with the federal and provincial elections fast approaching. Many schools will be used as polling stations and most local authorities seem more enthusiastic about preparing the schools for election day than making efforts to provide students with textbooks.
“They have even transported ballot papers to the school but no one is talking about delivering textbooks to our school with equal urgency,” said Karki.
The Election Commission transported the ballot papers to Mugu on Saturday on a helicopter. According to the Provincial Election Office, the ballot papers are transported to all 10 districts of Karnali ahead of the November 20 federal and provincial elections.
“Ballot papers and other logistics have already been ferried to the mountain districts. Our preparations are almost over for the 20 polls,” said Durga Prasad Chalise, the provincial election officer.
Asked about the delay in supplying textbooks, local government officials, who oversee the management of schools, say that they have made efforts to supply the books but there is little to show for it.
“A lot of actors are involved in the procurement, supply and transportation of school books. Only the local unit’s initiative is not going to solve the problem of book shortages in Mugu,” said Sarita Rokaya, vice-chairperson of Soru Rural Municipality.
“Our local unit released the budget for books on time. But the disruption to road transport caused by October rains has made it difficult to bring in the books.”
Students are disappointed by the failure to ensure timely supply of books. “I think delivering textbooks to students is not a priority. If the ballot papers could be transported by air, I’m sure it is possible to make a similar arrangement for textbooks,” said Nabin BK, a ninth grader at Sarbodaya Secondary School, Khatyad. “We don’t understand what is taught in class. We don’t have books for four subjects and that is hampering our academic performance.”
The Sarbodaya School management admits that the shortage of books has hampered all community schools. “The local unit does not send the budget to purchase books on time. Then the transporter adds to the delay,” said Lokendra Karki, the school headmaster. “Having new textbooks to learn from boosts the students’ morale. In their absence, it’s very difficult to hold students’ attention in the classroom.”
Kamal Shahi, whose ward attends Sarbodya Secondary School, says the absence of books means his child can’t study at home either.
“Classwork is not enough to prepare a student for examinations. One has to prepare at home too but since there are no books, the students haven’t been able to study,” said Shahi. “Their performance has worsened over time in the absence of textbooks.”
Panchadaya Secondary School in Khatyad still has not provided books for Mathematics (grade six); Computer Science (grade seven), Occupation, Business and Technology Education (grade eight) and Optional Math (grade 10).
Mahadeb Masta Model Secondary School in Ratapani is also hit hard by the textbook shortage. The students of grade 5 are yet to get their English book while the students of grades eight and nine are studying Occupation, Business and Technology Education, and Science without textbooks.
“The shortage of textbooks affects both students and teachers. Students have problems learning while we have a tough time teaching them without books,” said Naresh Bahadur Shahi, the headmaster at Mahadev Masta Model Secondary School in Khatyad.
Textbooks are supplied to Karnali from the provincial office of Janak Shiksha Samagri Kendra in Surkhet. According to Dhan Bahadur KC, a total of 1,401,789 books are required for students from grades four to 10 in Karnali Province. “Among them, 929,141 books have been transported so far,” said KC.