EDITORIAL: Flawed provision

The new bar will have the effect of driving away any entrepreneur who would like to enter into the education sector

The newly-passed eighth amendment bill to the Education Act, 2028 has generally been taken in a positive light by many, including educationists.

Not because the amendment is perfect or adequate, but because it marks a good start in correcting some of the anomalies that have existed in school education. There are certain things to be clarified yet.

But one provision of the amendment that has started raising public concern is the bar on the registration of new schools as a company.

It provides that those wishing to set up a new school can do so only as an educational trust (guthi), which can be either private or public. The term ‘trust’ implies the absence of profit motive whereas the term ‘company’ implies the presence of profit motive.

As an ideal, it may be argued that education should not be commercialized, because it is a service sector and it should be the responsibility of the government, particularly school education, which is regarded as a basic need in the world.

But what about the existing private schools? The amendment says that existing schools may opt to change to public or private trusts if they so desire.

That means they can remain as they are – profit-making companies. First of all this provision discriminates against would-be newcomers into school education, and it protects the markets of those already in the business.

Is it because of this that the owners of the private schools, which are organized into more than two school owners’ associations, have not made a hue and cry over this discriminatory legal provision, given their record of quick protest even at a less important government regulation if it was not in their interest?

The new bar will have the effect of driving away any entrepreneur who would like to enter into the education sector, providing service and making a profit.

And there would be very few who would like to put their money into trusts to run schools from which they cannot make money and whose property they cannot use as they wish.

That means if the new provision is not amended, it will reduce competition in the education sector and the students and parents stand to lose from this.

The State has the authority to decide how schools should be run and even to nationalize all schools. But in doing so, it will be wise to take into account several factors, including the effects of its decisions on the easy availability of education, its quality, etc.

The government’s intention to make the education sector service-oriented is not wrong in itself. But could the government fill the gap well if the private enterprise left the school education sector? No, it cannot.

The existing condition of the community schools provides a convincing answer. The declining numbers of students in the community schools have led it to the merger of two or more schools. Why?

Because people do not want to send their children to community schools if they have a choice. If it cannot do something adequately and well, the government should continue to allow private schools to be opened and operated, of course, within the law, its regulations, guidelines and the criteria set for them.

The government should see that the schools may not indulge in malpractices without having to face tough action.

In a bad shape

The only veterinary hospital in the country at Tripureswor  is facing difficult times.

Although the hospital was opened mostly to treat animals like cows, buffaloes and goats. These days the hospital is seeing very few such patients.

Of the 50 patients coming to the hospital for treatment daily most are pampered dogs kept as pets. Since the capital city has now become a concrete jungle there is very little cultivable land and animal husbandry.

Moreover, the hospital lacks emergency and general patient wards and the hospital earns only about Rs 40,000 per month while it spends up to about Rs. 400,000.

Registration fee for animals and birds is as low as Rs. 5 and also only Rs. 200 is charged for ultra sound and major surgery. This amount has also to be paid for the postmortem of elephants, horses and monkeys.

The dogs are brought here to have anti rabies vaccines administered monthly and minor ailments mostly. Experts have mooted that the hospital be turned into a veterinarian training centre instead of closing it.

There is a severe shortage of vets in the country and the country badly needs their services.