Kathmandu, November 8
Education minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel has drawn the attention of the international community towards violation of children’s right to education due to ongoing protest in Tarai/Madhes and continued shortage of petroleum products.
While addressing the 38th session of the general conference of the UNESCO in Paris on November 6, minister Pokharel who led the delegation of Nepal said, “Along with common challenges faced by many nations, our educational efforts in Nepal currently face two extraordinary challenges — natural and man-made.”
He stated that massive earthquake on April 25 and May 12 destroyed over 8,000 schools and colleges and a million children are earthquake-affected.
He said, “We aim to complete rebuilding of schools within two years,” adding, “Our people and the world rallied to create make-shift classrooms but winter is descending upon the mountains and better temporary solutions are essential.”
He added that the second extraordinary challenge the nation is facing is the obstructions on the southern border.
“Schools bear the brunt and the future of our children is at stake” he said, adding, “We trust that all UNESCO members stand with us in our post-disaster reconstruction efforts and restoration of normal supplies, in accord with the rights of landlocked countries, which will let us return to the serious business of implementing our constitutional commitments to education for all and child development.”
He briefed that Nepal’s new Constitution envisages free primary and secondary education as a fundamental right and it mandates progressive steps toward free higher education for all, and makes special provisions for women, Dalits, minorities, poor, and physically challenged citizens.
Minister Pokharel informed that despite remarkable achievements, Nepal still faces great challenges such as illiteracy, poverty and gender discrimination. He said public investment in education reached 4.2 per cent of GDP in 2014 — better, but still too low. Similarly, foreign aid averages 22 per cent of the total education budget, but declined this year to just 13 per cent. Investment in basic education has met Millennium Development Goals and Education For All targets, but has resulted in underfunding of higher education.
He said that the public university system has undergone necessary expansion but are underfunded.
According to minister Pokharel, Nepal has made a courageous constitutional commitment to EFA. Net enrollment rates have increased and the gender ratio has equalised. The “Literate Nepal Mission”, UNESCO’s “Capacity Building for EFA” programme, and Nepali teachers have contributed to the campaign to end illiteracy.
He further said that Nepal aims unfettered access to quality public education and make progressive teaching methods the norm, schools a safe haven for learning, and learning a life-long endeavour.He also commended UNESCO for its capacity-building assistance to member states, and for its solidarity as Nepal rebuilds its earthquake damaged world heritage sites.
He sought continued collaboration of national and international partners in keeping with the national priorities.
A version of this article appears in print on November 09, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.