BY P. KHAREL
Rana Prime Minister Dev Shumsher, who launched Gorkhapatra, the country’s first newspaper, then a weekly, is credited with opening some schools more enthusiastically than his predecessors. This led to his successors to follow suit in their own way. Each decade thereafter saw the number of schools significantly rise. In the past two decades, hundreds of public schools have also been built in the air. Although, they remain invisible, their presence is found in the records books for budget allocations.
No ordinary people without connections can construct such academic institutions that are beyond public visibility. It is people with access to power or in cooperation with influence-peddlers as partners that such constructions can be entered for eligibility of state funds year after year without any interruption or questions asked.
People, used to having to bribe their way to virutally any decision with a potential for generating earnings or clearing their way for their legitimate space, aren’t the least surprised that Transparency International names Nepal as the most corrupt nation, next only to Afghanistan in South Asia, the world’s most populous region with 1.73 billion.
Teachers in government-run schools receive attractive salaries and work terms when compared with their counterparts in the private sector: More holidays, higher salaries and little or no complaints against their paid absenteeism. Thousands of schools have teachers who hardly take regular classes while their attendance copies show their presence all along. For, they sign their attendance books at one go every two weeks or at the end of each month at one go.
Those engaged in such blatant dereliction of duty draw their power for the malpractice at the expense of parents who dream of schools being a springwell of knowledge and springboard for a better future of their children. And the hapless students are cheated of an entire future they might otherwise have had if only the teachers did their duties honestly. The worst off are those supposed to be given “free education”.
CONFESSED COWARDICE: Students are mostly upgraded to cover up the gross lapses of the school dministration. staff members. A large majority of these teachers obtained their jobs through, again, connections, political affiliation to parties or outright nepotism. In any case, a large majority of them have the cowardice not to enroll their own wards at the schools they draw their salaries from.
Feudalism is literally at work. The exploitative nature of the malpractice is highlighted by regular reports of the teachers actually drawing salaries but not reporting to where they are assigned to for months end. The absentees get someone else to proxy for them in the assigned classes and dole out a meagre part of their salaries. The teaching community having been heavily politicised, educational insitutions is a hive of political activity creating prejudices against those who are not with the ideological flock that has its sway in school management. Temporary teachers are hired accordingly.
Today, some 26,000 temporary teachers at government in schools are pressing for permanent status but without willing to put their comptence under test. They want to become permanent staff bypassing due procedure of basic regulations involved in recruitment. Their demand is to accord them their desired status by only token exams as eyewash which, for all practical purpose, guarantees them the permanent status. Numerous of them failed in their previous attempts multiple times.
In a country where hundreds of thousands of educated unemployed and underemployed youth run helter-skelter for paid jobs, tens of thousands more are added to the list of desperate youths who stare at the lot who press for unfair means to have their way without competition and opportunity for others to stake claim.
Nowhere in a functioning democracy dare anyone even demand unfair precedures preventing others from competing as a basic right. This has, however, been taking place in Nepal with increasing anarchy and impunity since the 1990s. The loktanrtik years have been the worst in the free-for-all game.
While the phsyically present schools in their thousands function in such manner, those believed to be found in the air without the possibility of our naked eyes ever seeing them but noticing them only in the district education office’s registers is a shame on any regime.
INCREASING GAP: In the meantime, the gap between government schools and private schools continues to widen. The evil irony is that some of the “leaders” among teachers operate their own schools in the private sector. The loktantrik decade has also seen tycoons in the education sector making it to representative bodies as nominees or through the “proportionate representation” route. Their bank accounts, it is believed, proved hefty and generous to the right people in the right position to secure important positions.
That they are not as generous in helping talented students from various corners of the country, who cannot afford quality education, is another issue their peers or patrons choose to ignore or overlook. Then there are party-affiliated teachers’ associations that exert so much pressure on champions of loktantra that change for the better remains only a dream. The chaos, if allowed to continue unaddressed, could produce consequences our leaders might not have imagined.