Dispute among people’s representatives deprives students of textbooksChhinnamasta Rural Municipality in Saptari has not yet released the budget for the education sector.
More than 4,000 students of several community schools in Chhinnamasta Rural Municipality of Saptari district are yet to get textbooks due to disputes among the people’s representatives regarding budget distribution.
Chhinnamasta Rural Municipality did not hold the village council meeting for the fiscal year 2020/21.
As per the Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangement Act-2017, local governments were required to present their fiscal budgets for the fiscal year 2021/22 by June 24 at their village or municipal assemblies. But the local unit kicked off the meeting for this fiscal year only a couple of days ago.
The local unit has failed to issue a budget for most headings under the education sector, which has affected the academic structure of all community schools in the rural municipality.
“As many as 4,042 students of various community schools should be provided with free textbooks. We are halfway through this academic session and we still haven’t been able to distribute books among the students,” said Rajdev Kumar Khanga, the education unit coordinator of Chhinnamasta Rural Municipality. “The delay in budget release has not only held up book distribution but it has also affected the midday meal programmes in many community schools of the rural municipality.”
According to Khanga, there are a total of 5,086 students in 19 community schools of the rural municipality. The federal government distributes textbooks to students up to grade 10 through the local units.
The delay in book distribution has affected the academic performance of the students, says Mahendra Prasad Yadav, the headmaster at a primary school in Hati.
“Some students have been using old books. But the curriculum for some grades has changed from this academic session. The learning and teaching processes cannot move effectively without books to refer to for students,” said Yadav.
According to Yadav, the municipality has not issued a budget under any headlines for the education sector, except for scholarships and miscellaneous expenses.
“Even the midday meal programme has been halted. This will lead to a spike in absenteeism among students in community schools,” said Yadav.
The human resources appointed by the local unit in various schools are also deprived of monthly salary owing to the rural municipality’s inability to hold its village council meeting. According to Khanga, 148 employees, including teachers, accountants and office assistants, in Chhinnamasta Rural Municipality have not received their salaries for the past four months.
“The teachers and other employees appointed by the rural municipality did not get a salary during the Dashain, Tihar and Chhath festivals as well. They visited the rural municipality office time and again and urged the administration to release their salaries but to no avail,” said Yadav.
Although the village council meeting for this fiscal year started on Friday, there is no indication of its timely completion since the people’s representatives are still divided on the priority of development projects, says Mahesh Sharma, the acting chief administrative officer of the local unit.
The day-to-day administrative works and development activities have also been greatly affected in Chhinnamasta because of the delay in budget release.
Health institutions in Chhinnamasta are facing a shortage of medicines due to the lack of budget. “We haven’t been able to purchase medicines. People blame health workers for not giving them medicines but since there is no budget to buy medicines, there’s nothing the health workers can do,” said Sharma.
According to Sharma, service seekers haven’t been able to register birth and death events, as the rural municipality does not have official stationery to certify the events on paper. The office does not have the budget to buy new ones.
“The office does not even have printer ink and paper. How can we run an office in such a condition?” he said.