New ‘tactic’ to get schools to run under local bodies

Kathmandu, February 11:

As an increasing number of schools are ready to abort their agreements with the government to run schools under local communities, the government has decided to solve the problem through a new approach: by changing the terminology ‘management transfer’ to ‘community involvement.’ This is being done to encourage public schools to apply for the status of community-managed schools.

Near a dozen ‘community managed schools’ have applied for the termination of their agreement with the government due to increasing pressure of the Maoists. In the last few months, no public school has applied for management transfer.

A high-placed official at the Department of Education (DoE), speaking under the condition of anonymity, said the government had decided to introduce the new terminology for ‘transfer’ as the old one was creating confusion among the local communities and the Maoists alike.

“The new terminology will be ‘community involvement in school management’ rather than ‘transfer of school management to community’ and the government will continue supporting the schools, both technically and financially,” the official said: “This will show that the government is not shunning its responsibilities.”

He also said that DoE is planning to implement the regulation on Community managed schools strictly in the near future. The DoE will also direct the district education offices to encourage the school management committees to promote and hire teachers as per their needs.

Baburam Adhikary, general secretary of the Nepal National Teachers Association (NNTA), said the government should have concentrated on improving the infrastructure of educational institutions and the quality of education in the public schools. The key stakeholders like the teachers should have been consulted before handing over the school management over to the communities, he added.

Mahendra Bilash Joshi, chairman of Community School National Network, Nepal, said that though the Maoist leadership in some district had accept the concept, they too felt the government was running away from its responsibility. He said the CSNNN was concentrating on uniting community managed schools and was trying to convince the Maoists to let the schools run.

Only the management of 2281 schools has been transferred to local communities since 2003 when the World Bank-funded Community School Support Project (CSSP) was launched.

Though the target was to hand over in excess of 2,000 schools this year, less than 200 schools’ management has been transferred so far. The government aims to hand over 8,000 schools by the end of 2007.

In 2003, only 92 public schools were handed over to communities . In 2004, though the target of 1000 was met, but in 2005 only 900 schools of the targeted 1500 were handed over.