Millions of students face uncertain future

Kathmandu, May 8

With the looming uncertainty over restoration of normal life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, over 7.5 million students, who have been deprived of education since mid-March, are likely to suffer for an indefinite period.

A meeting of the Education and Health Committee of the House of Representatives yesterday directed the Ministry of Education to ensure that no schools shall admit students, run classes and charge fees until the situation returned to normalcy. But, the government has no clue as to when normalcy will be restored.

Annual examinations of all students up to Grade IX had been completed before March 18. The government had called to halt all educational activities for indefinite period on the same night. The government’s move had first drawn the attention of thousands of students of Grade X, who were all prepared to take their exams the next day. Prolonged lockdown has only aggravated the anxiety of students, parents, teachers and stakeholders.

Babu Ram Thapa, national chairman of Confederation of Nepalese Teachers, said stakeholders needed to be serious about the future of around six million students up to Grade IX as they were supposed to begin new academic session by now. Thapa, who represents over 350,000 community school teachers, opined that students below Grade X would be affected the most as the government had not yet started supplying text books at schools due to the lockdown. “Millions of students, especially from remote places, are likely to be deprived of education for a long time due to lack of text books,” Thapa said.

Subash Bhandari, vice-chairman of Guardian Association of Nepal, said the most effective measure to tackle the situation was to provide textbooks to all the schools throughout the country as soon as possible. There are around 35,000 schools across the country. Besides, 6,000 private schools, all the schools teach books designated and provided by the government up to Grade X. “If only we could supply these books to the local governments across the country, they could supply them to the schools concerned and then to the students while abiding by the rules of social distancing,” Bhandari said.

He added that if books were provided the students could begin their studies with the help of parents, elder siblings, volunteer teachers or even government teachers in their community, which would at least create learning environment for students.

Tikaram Puri, chair of Private and Boarding School Organisation of Nepal, an umbrella  organisation of private schools in the country, said the government should at least help continue teaching-learning environment even if it could not officially begin academic year any time soon. “The government should encourage schools to run online classes by providing easy access to internet or even through the use of mass media like radio and television,” he said.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 9, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.