The Information Technology (IT) bubble might have burst in global business circles, but IT institutes are hogging the limelight at the 6th Nepal Education and Book Fair, currently being held at Bhrikuti Mandap.

Dinesh Shrestha of Prime College, a Kathmandu based IT institute talks about the bright future of this sector in Nepal, if guided by correct Government policies. Munal Jung Karki, a faculty member of National College of Computer Sciences (NCCS) adds, “Through this fair, our basic objective is to increase awareness among students of the immense potential that Information Technology has and the opportunities it provides to the youth.” The NCCS has its headquarters in Kathmandu with branches in Dhangadi and Naryanghat and offers long term as well as short-term courses.

While the education and career section drew to an end today, the book fair will continue until 11th May. Conceptualised in 1997 by the Global Exposition and Management Services (GEMS) to cater to the needs of students, the fair has seen a steady expansion both in terms of the number of participants, which has risen from 47 in 1997 to 120 this year and the number of visitors too, which reached a record high of 50,000 last year.

Santosh Chhetri, Director, GEMS who has been organising the event since its inception claims that the fair brings together diverse educational related institutions under one common platform. Chhetri says, “The fair not only increases knowledge and provides information to students about possible careers, but also helps install the much needed habit for reading in them.”

Apart from mainstream courses like IT, the fair also offers knowledge of parallel career opportunities. Sanjeev Bhowmik of Exteriors and Interiors Nepal says that their institute is a pioneer in terms of catering exclusively to interior design. Bhowmik, outlining their objective in the fair, says “We are in a nascent stage in Nepal, although we are a multinational institute. So, we are not looking at a specific number of students we want to admit during the course of the fair, but at increasing awareness about interior design and the scope it has in Nepal.” The fair is thus serving the purpose of increasing the knowledge of students about educational opportunities and at the same time giving educational institutions a chance to market themselves.

There is, however, a consensus among all quarters that there has been a decline in the number of visitors this year compared to last year. Bhowmik of Exterior Interior Nepal says that even though they managed responses from almost 1000 people, it was far less than expected. Karki of NCCS echoes the view. The primary factor said to be responsible for this decline in the visitor flow is the fact that it is being held in the midst of exams for various classes. Since students form the core clientele of such a fair, this has definitely dampened the prospects of a huge turnout.

Santosh Chhetri, chief organiser of the fair, also blames the unstable situation in the country as another responsible factor. Another participant agreeing to this viewpoint adds, “There has been a direct impact of the emergency and the Maoist situation on us and the fair this time around. There is an increased level of insecurity among the people who prefer to sit at home rather than go to public places.”

Chhetri is, however, optimistic about the turnout saying that the fair is only in its fourth day and the number of visitors might increase as it draws to an end. He adds that parents must also visit the fair as a part of the basic responsibility of guiding their children.

The fair continued to witness hectic activity throughout the day and drew appreciation from visitors as a valuable tool in helping students make the right choice. In a city void of any cultural and academic activity in such politically volatile and violent times, the fair is being welcomed as a golden chance to learn as well as enjoy.