Quality Education: Missing Links

<br>Radha Paudel

May 29, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 04 No.-23 May 27 -2011 (Jestha 13,2068)
Regardless of the political system, and region, a quite popular statement is heard everywhere in the field of education, that is,  'Quality Education is the Foundation for Sustainable Peace and Development.'

The government has come up with various schemes for achieving that, as is evident from the School Reform Plan 2010. There are many provisions for enabling teachers, and school management. Equipping schools, reciprocal relationship with parents/community, briefly where equality and inclusive approach are stressed, are also extensively appreciated.

Despite such fantastic, ambitious plans and policies, schools, school management committees, parents and teachers are struggling in different ways unknown by the majority of the people and policy makers. For instance, most of the schools of Jumla have no furniture e.g. benches. Neither have they had enough classrooms, nor teachers, nor enough teaching/learning materials. Students have to sit on the ground inside and outside the classroom. School Management Committee neither knows its role, responsibility and right. The school was established in 2042. A new management committee is formed every three years with the representation of all political parties.  Nowadays, the trend of students coming to school is gradually improving. This might be because the school has the provision of midday meal program, and somewhere, free distribution of dress, and books. Unfortunately, the performance or the outcome is not satisfactory at all. Only eight students are demonstrating that they can live professionally or independently, out of 1250 students, in the life of school (25 years). Rest of the students are working in India, or in Nepalgunj as porters. Some of them are doing blue color work in nearby villages. The limited number of teachers help them in their personal tasks e.g. irrigating their land. Neither management committee nor parents raise any question against such practices. Parents are not aware about their roles at all. Three students come with single pencil or book if they are from the same house.  Parents are always thinking that they are poor and illiterate so do not have any role or rights against the bad attitude of committee and teachers. Another big tragedy is that students represent only dalit (so called untouchable) communities as well as extreme poor from other castes. Most of the teachers are sending their children to boarding schools somewhere else.

This is only a representative case of educational practices existing in rural parts of Nepal. There is no single and common dream or vision about quality education. Each actor is blaming the other for failure and no one is ready to take responsibilities and be accountable. Even the district education office is not serious about such a devastating scenario of 25 years investment in education. To access quality and equal education is not just a matter of money, materials  and geography but also the willingness of civil societies and government to connect the pillars of quality education; school, management committee and parents. The zero sum in terms of parent's empowerment /mobilization and the mechanism of accountable for management committee is always there.
First and foremost, each actor (both civil societies, government, funding agencies) should enhance the bargaining and negotiation power of the communities/parents who would discuss with teachers and school management committee and also monitor the activities of children at home. Secondly, the biggest obstacle is coming from political parties, always during selection of teachers, formation of committee or any development activities related to education. Therefore the political parties should know their commitment (manifesto analysis). Likewise school management committee also needs to build their leadership capacity and develop and derive common and single dream for quality education. Finally, the government has to adopt different strategies to adjust such problems according to the context. Once the civil societies begin to have collective agencies, the feedback from communities will also help to make the school accountable towards the communities. Last but not the least, the government must open its eye to avoid blanket policy because ` one strategy does not fit everywhere'. Because the geographical and ethnographic diversity are the major constraints of implementation of programs. Therefore, the contextual plan should be in place. Otherwise, Nepal has already wasted too much effort and energy on education without significant results or impact. The risk is this might continue for several years.

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