Any tendency to rebuff the EC's warning by the two parties will only have other political forces ritually following their footsteps

In a stern warning to the Nepali Congress and CPN (UML), the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday asked them not to provide party membership to government post holders, including college professors and school teachers. The warning comes amidst reports that the two major parties were trying to promote the participation of public post holders in their upcoming general conventions. The CPN (UML) is hosting its 10th national congress in Chitwan from Friday while the Nepali Congress is convening its 14th general convention in December. The EC said the Political Party Act and other laws prohibited incumbent public post holders, such as government employees, teachers and professors, from becoming members of a political party. Since the details of the office bearers of the parties in the provincial and district committees must be submitted to the respective poll office there, the EC has directed its provincial and district offices not to update the parties' records should the parties remain adamant on having professors and teachers as general convention representatives. As major parties of the country that have been in the government time and again, they should know better about Nepal's laws. Any tendency to rebuff the EC's warning by the two parties will only have other political forces ritually following their footsteps.

The politicisation of the education sector, as with all other sectors, is largely responsible for the declining quality of education in public schools.

Political activism is rife in public schools and colleges, what with a host of student and teachers unions, each loyal to a political party ,taking up issues not related to the education sector. Yet no political party is willing to drop the unions for fear of losing their influence among the youth. Teachers hold great influence in a rural community while students provide muscle and numbers to enforce party agenda, such as lockdowns. The teachers and professors, on their part, engage in party politics, hoping to gain favouritism, protection, promotion or a lucrative post should their party come to power. A teaching job, usually of a temporary nature, is often handed down as a reward to cadres even if they are unqualified.

As a result, the government schools are stuck with thousands of temporary teachers, who, because of their political clout, cannot be dismissed despite being unqualified, while permanent teachers remain unmotivated in their job.

It is unfortunate that 30 years after the ushering of multi-party democracy in the country, education has never been a priority of the government or the political parties. They have failed to understand that without quality education and quality human resource a nation cannot develop. Could this be because nearly all the party leaders began their political career as student leaders, engaging in political activism when they should have been studying? According to the Education Review Office under the Ministry of Education, which assesses the learning achievements of school-level students, the quality of education has been declining over the years. Issues such as these should be the topics of serious discussion and debate in the general conventions of the parties.

Fare hike

With the recent hike in petroleum prices, commuters who use the public transport have once again found themselves at the receiving end. In an immediate reaction to the hike, the owners of public vehicles have started charging more. Surprisingly, it's not only the diesel or petrol-run vehicles. When it comes to fleecing passengers, battery-operated vehicles do not seem to be far behind, either. Different student wings have been protesting against the hike in fuel prices, but with no results.

While the transport entrepreneurs rake in profits, it's the local commuters who have to bear the brunt of the syndicate system that fixes the fares. Fuel price hike or not, transport entrepreneurs have time and again hiked the fares. The passengers have been left with no other choice, but to pay according to their demands, as the authorities have neither been able to fix a standard fare nor have they been able to introduce government-run public vehicles widely. Furthermore, price fluctuation depends on the whims of the vehicle owners instead of the real increase in the cost of operating the transport system. The line ministry and its agencies should take steps to ensure that fares rise only when they are justified.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 25, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.