Textbooks and Scholarships, Major Education Bottlenecks
by- Deepa Rai
“We haven’t received scholarships for three years and we have to buy our own textbooks as schools only provide them at the end of the academic session,” Surati Shrestha, Class 10, Chandannath Higher Secondary School, Khalanga, Jumla.
These concerns of the students from remote Karnali districts formed the topic of a heated discussion at the Department of Education (DoE). Voices collected from four districts Doti, Jumla, Dolpa and Dadeldhura culminated into a report that was presented to the government and concerned authorities as well as the media. Dr Lava Dev Awasthi, Director General, DoE, chaired the national sharing event that discussed vital points on the unavailability of textbooks and scholarships affecting students’ educational growth.
The Nepal Government has been providing free textbooks and scholarships on a mass scale under the School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP). The provision first started with grades 1- 5, gradually extending to grade 8 and then to all the secondary level students. While the policy is intact on paper, its implementation is yet to live up to expectations.
The public hearings conducted by Education Journalists Group (EJG) in the Karnali region found out that there have been a lot of inconsistencies in the provision of textbooks and scholarships. Budgetary impediments, transportation in hard- to- reach areas, mismanagement and mishandling and at the central and local levels, lengthy bureaucratic processes are considered to be the major hindrances.
In one of the cases reported from Jumla, budget allocated for textbooks and scholarships was used to pay teachers’ salary. It cites the school authorities saying: “District Education Office (DEO) gives permission to run higher level classes, but does not provide teachers. This compels the schools to hire teachers from the private sector. As it is for the benefit of the students themselves, their scholarship amount is used for salaries of such teachers. This is what we have to resort to when DEO does not provide subject teachers.”
Addressing the government officials and education experts at the event, Sumon Tuladhar, Education Specialist at UNICEF Nepal, urged all to commit to their profession full heartedly.
“This is the second time we have conducted these public hearings and we are back to discussing the same things again," she said. "Education is one of children’s fundamental rights and we are still stuck on the issues of unavailability of text books. Moreover, students can’t study subjects of their choice because of lack of textbooks. It is high time time that we commit to our responsibilities and work together to solve these burning issues.”