Federal education act remains an unfulfilled promiseIn the absence of the law, local governments have not been able to manage school-level education in their jurisdictions.
During an interaction with journalists in Myagdi on Tuesday, Minister for Education, Science and Technology Devendra Poudel claimed that promulgation of a Federal Education Act was his priority.
Poudel is the fifth education minister since the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal and third since the last general elections. And every minister has made similar claims. However, no minister has fulfilled their claim to have the Act in place though it has already been over six years since the country got its constitution drafted by the Constituent Assembly.
Schedule 8 of the constitution gives local governments explicit authority to handle school education. It allows them to take necessary measures to manage school-level education within their jurisdictions.
An Act and regulations are prerequisites for the implementation of the constitutional provision. In the absence of the law, local governments have not been able to exercise their constitutional authority yet. “We have been desperately waiting for the Act for years now. Commitments by successive governments have been limited to lip service,” Bansa Lal Tamang, general secretary of the National Association of Rural Municipalities in Nepal, told the Post. “We are least hopeful that the Act will be promulgated before our terms end.” The local governments have less than a year for their completion of five years tenure.
The Election Commission on October 25 proposed the government conduct the local elections by the third week of March next year. Tamang said, in the absence of the Act there is a confusion among government employees about whether to obey the local government or the federal government. “School education is currently in a shambles. It cannot be brought onto track without having a law in place,” said Tamang.
The constitution allows local governments to make laws. However, the constitution also says such laws will be void to the extent they contradict with the federal law. On different occasions in the past, the federal government has issued circulars to the local governments ordering them not to make laws until related federal Acts are formulated. A writ petition challenging the circular is sub judice in the Supreme Court.
Education experts say the primary reason behind the delay is the reluctance of the federal government to delegate authority to local governments and the bureaucracy is complicit in the delay. They said lack of a constitutional deadline for the promulgation of the laws like the one related to the fundamental rights is also responsible for the delay.
The constitution made it mandatory to have the laws related to the fundamental rights in place within three years since its promulgation. It also said the existing Acts that contradict the constitution must be revised within a year since the first meeting of the federal parliament. The government prepared the laws within the constitutional deadline. However, as there is no such constitutional deadline for the promulgation of federal laws, successive governments have become negligent in discharging their duty.
Binay Kusiyait, a professor at the Tribhuvan University, said the reluctance also reflects a lack of commitment of the successive governments towards the implementation of the constitution. He said it is unfortunate that the local governments are completing their tenure without a crucial law in place.
“The education minister might have promised to promulgate the Act, but I am least hopeful,” he told the Post. “It is unfortunate that no government is serious about a sensitive issue like education.”