There was recently a fair amount of debate in our House of Representatives (HOR) regarding the establishment of a Non Government Public University in Nawalparasi. The likelihood of some support is likely as in the case of Kathmandu University. During the course of discussions, a member of the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) remarked that the number of existing universities in Nepal was uncertain. One national news paper stated nineteen whilst another gave a lower figure! This statement in the HOR reminded me of years ago when I quoting the number of private hospitals in Nepal. The figured that I had obtained and the figure quoted by the Department of Health Services differed. When I pointed this out, the department, I was blandly told the figure given included the permissions given to construct private hospitals. Whether the hospital functioned or not was not an issue! Thankfully, this practice was discontinued subsequently! Political suggestion is for this to be named Memorial to Socialism University!
There was also comment in the HOR regarding the current practice of the Prime minister being the VC of the Universities of Nepal. It was suggested that experts in their field of education should be the Chancellor or the Vice Chancellor and applications should be called for this. These and other appointments in the University should not be on party lines. Unions of party lines amongst the faculty and also staff should be forbidden. Student Union activities should be restricted to academic and other matters such as facilities provided.
The trend to name hospitals or institutions only after political leaders should be stopped. A recent news is of the PM agreeing to the establishment of the Dasrath Chand Medical University when the hospital has not even started functioning! Current rules of the Medical Education Commission of Nepal require that a 300 bedded hospital has to be functioning for a number of years prior to starting the MBBS course. This is a classical case of the left hand does not know what the right hand doeth!
If anything the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which recently completed 51 years on 1st Shrawan 2023, has a number of dental and medical colleges affiliated to it, and has been conducting examinations for various medical and health profession courses for decades should be made the first medical university of Nepal. This is rational. Then there is the case of the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences (BPKIHS) at Dharan, which has been a Deemed University for close to three decades. It should be upgraded immediately and some medical and dental colleges in the eastern region of Nepal should be affiliated to it.
Then there is the case of the Khopan University Bill which should have been passed a long time ago but is pending. It seems that this is being done purposely. Surprisingly there is a proposal to start a medical college at Bhaktapur charging very nominal fees. Is this the reason why this is not being given permission? Another is the case of the B&C Medical College built by Durga Prasai at Birtamod, Jhapa. Visit to the institution, inspection by the Nepal Medical Commission and permission to function has been delayed for years and one wonders the reason for it!
Having stated all these realities, one comes to the conclusion that the education of a Nepali students needs to be seriously pondered over by enlightened minds and efforts made to solve the problem of higher education in Nepal. The current situation is that many of the colleges affiliated to Tribhuvan University (TU) are not getting students to conduct courses and talks are underway to combine various campuses. What a situation! One recalls that almost four / five decades there was a proposal to split it into three units – TU at Kathmandu and a Purbanchal & Paschimanchal. That has occurred now but in a different format by itself!
Overall thinking is necessary at this stage and reorganisation needs to be done. Should Universities be on regional basis or as per specialities? Let there be serious thinking on this point. Our current problem of a large number of students going outside to study whilst our colleges here are empty is a serious matter to confront. Let there be serious thinking on this score for the possibility is that only about 20% of students who study abroad will return back on completion of studies!
Sadly the one Technical University that we have has still to function fully. As Pradesh Governments are keen to do some viable function for their residents, they should be involved in having ‘Trade Schools’ of different areas for those who want to work within or out of the country. Those going outside of Nepal will be better equipped for work in foreign lands and will earn more. Though Agriculture and Forestry University exists the current situation is acute, for admissions for the coming session is just 35% with there being no applications at one campus! This is a dire situation and steps must be taken to ensure the quality of education. Such action will go a long way to encourage Nepalis to work within the country rather than go out to foreign lands. Our hill or mountain tops will have fruit trees of various types or even just forests for our timber needs.
One doubts as to how much will really get done during the term of this HOR. During the first seven months of this session only three Bills pertaining to the Budget have been passed. Because of the recent clamour of the affected the Bill pertaining to relief of the Meterbadgi has been authenticated and legalised by the President’s signature.
Our current PMPKD had announced that what the country was seeing was a trailer of things to happen.
Was he opening the Pandora Box of all scams that have been buried in the past? The sudden disclosures promised of past scams appear now to be at a standstill. Major scam actors have been flitting across the screen and disappearing whilst it is the extras that are in the limelight! It seems that all of us public are being taken for a ride by the major political parties, all of whom have a finger in the financial pie. Yes, the naatak has been well planned. Forget about regular work of HOR, it is immaterial and of no consequence!
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd