EDITORIAL: Merger crisis

It is high time that the government reviewed its old policies in the education sector so that the local communities prefer to send their kids to public schools

The government has allocated Rs. 116.36 billion for education which is 11.9 percent of the total budget of Rs. 1,048.9 billion for the fiscal 2016/17.

Although it was five percent less – last year it was 16 percent – than what had been allocated for the last fiscal. But the amount for education is substantially larger than last year as the size of the budget has been increased.

Of the total budget allocated for education the government spends substantive amounts for school education with a view to enhancing quality education in public and community schools where the teaching learning environment has been at the lowest level compared to the privately-run schools across the country.

Guardians, even from the low income group, have stopped admitting their wards at public and community schools in both the urban and rural areas citing poor quality of education and infrastructure, including classrooms, toilets, desks, benches, electricity, drinking water facilities and so on.

Some of the public and community schools are located far away from local communities and children find it difficult to reach them due to inaccessibility.

After a number of public and community schools failed to enroll the desired number of students from the local communities in rural and urban areas the government has allowed the concerned District Education Offices to merge the schools which have less number of students with others having a relatively larger number of students.

A recent report has revealed that as many as 25 primary level public schools in the Kathmandu Valley are on the verge of closure through merger process because there are no students in any grade.

These schools will be merged with others which will make it more difficult for the students from poor families to reach the schools far away. It means that it is highly likely that the children from poor families will not go to the schools located far away from their residence, and they will ultimately drop out.

The government has spent billions of rupees every year to make sure that all school-going children will go to school. If the merger process goes unabated there will be no public and community schools left in urban centres.

The parents do not want to send their kids to public or community schools mainly because of the poor quality of education and infrastructure. The teachers appointed by the government through Education Service Commission seem to be competent enough to teach their respective subjects.

But they cannot go for English medium, a preferred medium the parents and guardians want. Spending a lot of public money in school education alone will not bring about any positive change unless the local communities, parents/guardians come together to enhance the standard of education in the public schools.

It is high time that the government reviewed its old policies in the education sector so that the local communities prefer to send their kids to public schools as three decades ago when almost all students used to be enrolled in government schools.

A system must be developed with support from local communities or with incentives in which even the public schools also provide quality education along with provisions of adequate infrastructure.

Pap tests

It has been decided by the government to provide free Pap tests in government hospitals throughout the country.

This is indeed a good step as such tests screen cervical cancer among women which is common among them. If detected early in the initial stage it is possible to save the lives of many women.

This takes usually only five to 15 minutes to perform to detect the presence of precancerous or cancer cells on the cervix and the opening of the uterus. Women who are aged 35 to 60 years are particularly vulnerable to cervical cancer.

To be on the safer side, women of these age groups should have such tests as frequently enough as advised by medical practitioners.

The Health Ministry has sent letters to this effect to all the regional public health offices to carry out such tests.

It is now the duty of all government hospitals to do so, and they should have no excuses for not doing this test considering the hazards posed by cervical cancer.

Awareness must be generated among women about the benefits of conducting these tests to prevent cervical cancer. Most women are not aware of such tests.