The European Union (EU) from 1 August 2016,has taken over from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the role of Development Partner Focal Point for the Local Education Group. As Focal Point, the EU supported by the Embassy of Finland as Co-Focal Point, is tasked to represent development partners in policy dialogue, consultations, reviews and other interactions with the Government in support of school reform in Nepal, notably the implementation of the new School Sector Development Plan (SSDP).
The 7-year SSDP aims, in line with Nepal's long term vision to graduate from Least Developed Country status, to significantly strengthen quality, access, equity, and efficiency within the Nepal school sector.
“The scope of the SSDP 2016-2023 includes early childhood development, basic and secondary education. It is a collective effort to enhance coordination, impact and results on the Plan by bringing together key stakeholders together: government, parents and teachers' organizations, civil society as well as development partners. Together with the recently amended Education Act, the SSDP blueprint will guide progress in the education sector and prepare the ground for federalism in school administration as stipulated in the Constitution. The major tasks ahead to make the Plan a real success require allocation of sufficient resources,” said a press issued by Delegation of the European Union to Nepal.
"Education cooperation in Nepal through a sector-wide approach is a shining example of government led reform," said Andreas Roettger the EU Chargé d'Affaires a.i., during the handover ceremony.
While thanking UNICEF for the excellent work done as Focal Point over the last two years, he added, "The EU feels honoured to have been entrusted with this important coordination task at this crucial juncture, and looks forward to UNICEF's continued collaboration as we jointly continue our efforts to advance education in Nepal."
UNICEF Deputy Country Representative, Dr. Rownak Khan, as departing Focal Point, acknowledged the strong partnership in the education sector, and also pointed out how the SSDP would be sailing in the uncharted waters of federalism in the country. She further stressed the need for the Government to see issues such as early childhood development, not just as related to the education sector, but to highlight and promote their cross-sectoral nature.
The Deputy Head of Mission of the Finnish Embassy, Dr Pekka Seppala, while recalling the long term involvement of Finland in the education SWAp as one of the first focal points, underlined the importance of supporting a common agenda to drive reform processes.
While welcoming the EU in its new role Dr. Lava Deo Awasthi, the officiating Secretary of the Ministry of Education, spoke of the exemplary cooperation in the post-disaster context. "The day after the first earthquake we were meeting in tents to decide what needed to be done," he recalled. "The Government and Development Partners, based on the strong partnership established through the sector wide approach, worked as single joint team in responding to the immense need created by the disaster."
Dr. Awasthi highlighted the salient points of the SSDP -- Quality and learning outcomes—which are essential to restoring trust in the public sector, whilst also achieving the unfinished agenda of the SSRP.
The changing demographics of the country and the required changes in service delivery will be some of the main challenges in the upcoming years," he added. "In many ways, Nepal is still in transition; but we should never forget how far we have come already. The Government thanks UNICEF for its role over the past two years and appreciates Finland's continuation as Co-Focal Point as it will help bridge the transition."
Education is one of the focal areas of EU Nepal cooperation. It will be scaled up and also broadened to include technical and vocational training during the period 2014-2020. The EU's support contributes to poverty reduction and socio-economic development in Nepal by raising educational access and achievements of the young generation on an equitable basis.