Take back schools from communities, ANNISU-R tells govt

Kathmandu, September 26:

At a time when the government is planning to hand over more schools to communities, the student wing of the Maoists has threatened to launch an agitation to stop such a practice and press the government to take back the management of schools.

The management of 2,326 schools has been transferred to communities since 2003 after the World Bank-funded Community School Support Project (CSSP) was launched. A total of 1,941 primary schools, 277 lower secondary schools and 108 secondary schools in 63 districts have been handed over to the communities.

While the target for the handover this year is 2,000 schools, only about 200 schools’ management has been transferred so far. The government has targeted to hand over 8,000 schools to communities by the end of 2007.

Himal Sharma, general secretary of the All Nepal National Independent Students Union-Revolutionary (ANNISU-R), told this daily that they will be forced to launch a stir if the government failed ito address their 9-point charter of demands.

“We will keep up the protests as the government is planning to run away from its responsibilities in the education sector,” Sharma said.

Denying threats allegedly issued to communities, he said they would convince the communities that the programme would back fire.

The student wing of the rebels had, eight months ago, submitted a memorandum to the Education Minister urging him to take back the management of schools handed over to communities.

The programme to hand over schools to communities has not been successful in 13 districts,

especially in districts most affected by the conflict — Bhojpur, Rasuwa, Sindupalchowk, Rolpa, Salyan, Jajarkot, Mugu, Humla and Kailali. Government officials have blamed the student wing of the Maoists and teachers for the failure of the programme.

Though the communities are keen on taking over the schools, Maoists have threatened them with dire consequences, an official at the Department of Education (DoE) said. Mahashram Sharma, the DoE director said there is a misconception and a rumour that the government is trying to shirk its responsibilities. The government is simply trying to empower the communities by providing Rs 1 lakh for the improvement of schools.

Mohan Gyanwali, chairman of Nepal Teachers’ Association, said the reason behind the heavy criticism of the programme is that the government has ignored major stakeholders in the education sector while implementing its plans.

“The government’s decision to authorise communities to hire and fire teachers cannot be tolerated,” Gyanwali said.

“Teachers will support the government if it changes its policy on the teachers’ professional welfare and security,” he added.