EDITORIAL: Publish officially

There is a lot of speculation that the report was shelved under pressure from the private institutions

The government has sought legal action against two non-governmental organisations for publishing a report that the government had kept on hold for the last two years. Five hundred copies of the report of the High-Level National Education Commission were published by two organisations, namely the National Campaign for Education and Global Action Nepal. And on Friday, the 500-page report was unveiled in Kathmandu amidst a function by 13 of the 25 commissioners who had helped draft it. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has accused the two NGOs of copyright infringement as the report ‘illegally’ uses the national emblem and the ministry’s name without government consent.

The commission was formed in mid-July 2018 to prepare a report on the overall education system to be adopted under the federal structure. Six months later, the commission, chaired by the incumbent Minister of Education Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, had submitted the report to Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli. However, the government refused to make it public for two years — in a serious breach of the people’s right to information — until it was flashed last week.

The report has made a series of recommendations to improve, among others, the quality of education in public schools while seeking to make private schools service-oriented instead of profit-oriented. One of the recommendations was to bring all schools being run by a company, guthi or cooperative under a common structure and have all private schools operating under the Company Act transform into non-profitable social institutions within a decade.

The commission members are particularly enraged that the National Education Policy-2076 BS, introduced in December last year, did not incorporate the recommendations made in the report, which had demanded that the private sector be gradually discouraged in school education. The report had also recommended that anyone enjoying salaries and facilities from the state coffers should send their children to public schools. This means even elected people’s representatives will have to send their wards to public schools.

It would have saved the government a lot of embarrassment had it published the report soon after it was presented to the prime minister. There is no meaning in forming a commission to prepare a report that it was not going to make public, especially given that it does not deal with security matters requiring top secrecy. There is a lot of speculation that the report was shelved under pressure from the private institutions that run their schools with high profit-motive. It needs no reiteration that education and health in this country are turning into a profitable industry of sorts in the hands of the private sector.

The new national education policy will mean nothing if quality education is not going to be affordable to a greater number of children and their status in the country is to be determined by the type of school they go to. Since the damage has already been done, the government should officially make public the report by the High-Level National Education Commission and begin public discussion on ways to implement the recommendations so as to build an egalitarian society.

Open the border

Although the government has already decided to resume flights to and from India starting December 16 under the “air bubble concept”, both Nepal and India have yet to decide about opening up the surface borders for easy movement of the people from both the sides. The air services and international border between the two countries were suspended following the surge in COVID-19 pandemic in March.

However, cargo vehicles were allowed to enter both the countries from the customs points.

With the surface border sealed off for nine months, people from both the sides, especially those living close to the border, are facing problems in their movement across the border. As Nepal and India share an open border, people from both the sides can travel to either side without having to produce any official documents. People, especially those who need to go to India and vice versa for medical treatment and students for higher studies, are at the receiving end due to the border closure. This is a serious problem both Nepal and India need to resolve soon as both the countries have resumed their internal markets and businesses recently. Even if the border has been sealed, people are seen crossing it using different routes.