The government cannot deviate from past promises to convert the nine-point deal with Dr KC into legislation
Senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr Govinda KC is on the 16th day of his 16th fast-onto-death, with the demand that the nine-point agreement reached between the KP Sharma Oli-led government and his team on July 26 last year be incorporated in toto in the National Medical Education Bill, which is under consideration in the House of Representatives (HoR). As per schedule, the bill was to pass through the federal parliament on Monday. But the main opposition, the Nepal Congress (NC), has been obstructing the House over the changes made in the bill by the Parliamentary Education and Health Committee, and the government’s decision to scrap two hospitals named after the late prime ministers – Girija Prasad Koirala and Sushil Koirala – in Tanahun and Banke, respectively. Two meetings of the HoR on Tuesday saw scuffles between the ruling Nepal Communist Party and NC lawmakers over the issues, forcing Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara to adjourn the meeting till Friday. A Cabinet meeting on January 14 had decided to scrap the two hospitals – GP Koirala National Centre for Respiratory Disease in Dulegauda, Tanahun and Sushil Koirala Prakhar Cancer Hospital in Khajura, Banke – without giving any reasons for it. The NC is demanding that they be brought under the purview of the federal government.
Besides the issue of the two hospitals named after the Koiralas, NC lawmakers have also pressured the government to respect the nine-point agreement reached with Dr KC and his team and incorporate it in the bill. NC lawmakers barred Minister for Education, Science and Technology Girirajmani Pokharel from reaching the rostrum from where he was supposed to table the bill for endorsement. The NC’s concern is that the bill was endorsed by the committee on majority basis, ignoring the deal reached with Dr KC. One of KC’s demands includes mentioning ‘Kedar Bhakta Mathema-led commission’, which recommended barring new medical colleges in the Kathmandu Valley for ten years, among others, in the preamble of the bill. The commission had also recommended that one university should not be allowed to give affiliation to more than five medical colleges and the existing CTEVT course on health education should be phased out within five years of the bill becoming law.
However, the bill, endorsed by the parliamentary committee, has inserted a provision under which the proposed medical colleges, which have already obtained the Letter of Intent to open outside the Valley, will be allowed to go ahead. The bill has also proposed setting up a medical university, without making any elaboration, to regulate medical education in the country. These are some of the major bones of contention that have put the ruling and the opposition at loggerheads. While it is morally wrong to scrap the two hospitals already in operation, the government should honour the deal it reached with the agitating side. When the deal was signed, PM Oli had vowed to convert the deal into legislation. Now, he is trying to deviate from his past commitment. The PM must assume moral responsibility for the deal and act accordingly. When the PM returns home from Davos on Saturday he should hold parleys with the main opposition to resolve the impasse. As PM, he also has the moral responsibility to save Dr KC’s life.
The government’s wish to develop community schools as centres of excellence is not only commendable but also timely. For decades now, schools in the country have been imparting two types of education based on the kind of school the students attend – private and public. With the gap in the educational standards between the two simply glaring, it is time the government intervened to give every student of this country a level playing field when it comes to getting a good education in school.
Community schools have largely suffered due to constant meddling by the political parties, giving the private schools a field day to operate as a business. When teaching and other jobs in community schools are provided on the basis of political affiliation, one can only assume what the quality of learning will be there. And once in, their job security makes things all the more worse. One way of improving the quality of education in the community schools is to have government service holders send their children there. Only then will they start showing concern about the falling standards there.
A version of this article appears in print on January 24, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.