Government move to hand over schools to communities paying off

KATHMANDU: The government decision in 2003 to hand over the management of public schools to communities has finally started to pay off.

Community managed schools are not just being managed efficiently, but they are also producing better results. Kavre is one such district.

According to the Department of Education, the hilly district also tops the number of public schools with their management handed over to the community.

Of the 9,736 schools handed over to the communities across the country in the past seven years, Kavre has 542. Other districts that closely follow are Udaypur (384), Ilam (378), Morang (334) and Jhapa (307). Rasuwa and Humla districts feature at the bottom with two and three schools, respectively.

With a view to better managing public schools, many of which have long been performing poorly in academic terms, the government launched the programme with the support of the World Bank.

As an incentive, schools ready to be managed by communities get an initial fund of Rs 100,000 for each level of education - primary, lower secondary and secondary - supplemented with infrastructural and capacity building support.

"The programmes and the benefits of its implementation for the school were very well communicated among the Kavre schools. District Education Officer Sundar Kumar Shakya was actively involved in reaching out to the schools and communities in publicising the procedure and benefits of the programme," said Nibharaj Joshi, deputy director of the School Management Section (Primary) in the Department of Education.

"He attended the meetings of resource centres among schools throughout the district, instead of calling officials over to the headquarters. In doing so, he had a chance to interact with every headmaster as well as other stakeholders, inspiring them to adopt the government move."

According to a DoE official, community-managed schools are prioritised while allocating resources. Following the transfer of management from School Management Committees, many schools have started performing better. "The transfer has given the communities a sense of ownership over the schools.

They go round the schools regularly and try to see the problems they are facing. There is transparency in the expenditure of the schools. This has also seen a reduction in cases of absence of teachers," he added.

The DoE had planned to hand over 8,000 schools by the end of the 10th five-year plan to communities. The number has now reached almost 10,000.

There were, however, some challenges to begin with. The move had not been well perceived by stakeholders concerned, while teachers were unwilling to be controlled by what they called under-qualified community members.