Political wranglings continue unabated in Bajhang’s public schoolsMany school administrations across the district focus on taking financial benefits out of the school's budgets, according to the Education Unit.
Five years ago, Sunkuda Secondary School in Bitthadchir Rural Municipality had topped the list of Bajhang’s best-performing public schools. But last year, it barely got into the list of top ten. The stakeholders, however, seem little concerned about the school’s downward spiral. Currently, the school administration and the parents are occupied by a disagreement over the formation of a school management committee.
The parents complain that the school administration formed a management committee with people who are outsiders, those whom they do not approve of. To avenge the administration’s decision, the guardians have resorted to street demonstrations and padlocking the school.
Last week, the school hosted a meeting of guardians to appoint a new management committee through an election, where a staggering 54 candidates vied for the position of chairperson. Even though the school administration said it wanted to appoint the chair through consensus, no headway was made that day and the election was postponed until the next day. But the next day, the guardians learned that the erstwhile chair Ramesh Adhikari was reappointed as the chairperson, which outraged the guardians who allege that the school administration rigged the election process.
“While the school administration promised that the chair would be appointed through popular consensus, it was only the principal and former chair that made the decision,” said Kalak Bista, the ward chair. “This is against the spirit of democracy.”
The guardians the Post talked to say that it is ‘unfair decisions’ like these that have deteriorated the school’s academic performance.
“This decision makes it clear that the school administration is more concerned about politics than championing quality education,” Harkabahadur Dhant, a guardian, said. “This gives us all the more reason to believe that corruption runs unchecked in the school.”
Dhant alleged that during Adhikari’s tenure, there were instances of corruption in the use of the school’s funds.
“Adhikari was fearful that if a new chair gets chosen, he/she will expose the corruption he’d engaged in,” he said.
Adhikari, however, denied the allegations, saying some of the guardians seem “vengeful” and are now “staging a drama”.
“I was elected through popular consensus,” he said. “Just because some people aren’t happy with it doesn’t mean the election is rigged.” Adhikari further added that he had incorporated several reforms in the school during his tenure.
Sunkunda Secondary is just one among Bajhang’s public schools where overt politicisation has sidelined the quest for quality education. Rajendra Joshi, an education unit coordinator at Jayaprithvi Municipality, said that many school administrations across the district focus on taking financial benefits out of the school's budgets.
“The number of schools that prioritise quality education over politics is less than a handful in the district. This has led to the decline in academic performances of public schools,” he said.
Lal Bahadur Bohara, a professor at Jayaprithvi Campus, echoes Joshi’s sentiments. “Sensitive decisions such as the appointment of teachers and chair are politicised; they are hired according to their party affiliations,” Bohara said. “This has impacted the education sector of the entire district.”