Kathmandu, April 8:

The Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) has intensified the process of providing scholarships and funds for textbooks for this academic year to retain students and lure more out-of-school children to schools.

At present, the Net Enrolment Rate stands at 87.4 per cent and the goverment aims to increase this figure to 90 per cent, but an expert still believes this will be a Herculean task.

The government has earmarked Rs 1.11 billion for scholarships in the primary level and Rs 700 million for providing textbooks and learning materials. It has also allocated Rs 1.29 billion for next year, based on improvement by the schools, to be given as block grant at the rate of Rs 300 per student.

Hari Lamsal, deputy director at Department of Education (DoE), told this daily that the DoE has already sent the amount for the textbooks from end of March and the students could get the amount for the books at the latest by April 28.

Professor Dr Mana Prasad Wagley, educationist, said that unless the government introduces alternative programmes, it will be very difficult to achieve the 90 per cent NER target.

The concept of free primary education needs to be replaced with the system which makes able parents pay for education of their children, while the fund is used to serve the highly marginalised hard core group of children, whom it is very difficult to bring to the schools, said Prof Wagley.

The government’s scholarships of Rs 350 per child will not support the hard core group children because per child schooling cost comes to around Rs 5000 per year and most of the children in this group cannot afford this. This issue must be addressed, he said.

There has been an increment in NER growth rate — from hardly one per cent to seven per cent — after the government started the Students Enrolment Campaign (SEC) and School Welcome Programme (SWP) three years ago. However, dropout rate is very high. Due to poor Education Management Information System, the exact NER growth rate is yet not confirmed.

This year the government is starting the SEC and SWP from May 16 to 24 while the door to door campaign will start from May 25 to June 1.

The government has also planned to construct 5000 classrooms worth Rs 1.87 billion to meet the demand, especially where in Tarai where the internal migration is very high.

The government has allocated Rs 48 million for toilet construction and Rs 40 million for drinking water.

Bhim Bahadur Saud, section officer at DoE said there will be a district level monitoring committee to check the retention rate. “Intervention programmes will be applied immediately if necessary,” said Saud.