KATHMANDU, May 30: The fiscal budget presented on Monday by Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara has provisioned to hand over the responsibility of secondary level education to the local governments. However, the stakeholders have doubted the effective implementation of the decision.
The responsibility to pay teachers and manage schools from grade 1-10 will be handed over to the local units as part of the implementation of the federal system enshrined in the constitution, according to the new budget. But the budget is silent on the allocation of funds from the local units for the education sector and the contribution from the center, said Prof Dr Bidya Nath Koirala, an education expert.
Only 11.6 per cent of the total budget was earmarked for the education sector for the current fiscal year despite Nepal's commitments at international forums to allocate at least 20 per cent.
Of the Rs 1,048 billion fiscal budget, Rs 116.3 billion was allocated for the education sector in the current fiscal year. Of the total allocation, nearly 90 percent is spent on salaries and administrative costs.
Similarly, of the government's total budget of Rs 1,278 billion for the coming fiscal year, only about Rs 131 billion (10.27) percent has been allocated for the education sector, according to the Ministry of Education (MoE). Of the total allocation, Rs 36 billion will be kept for the central level.
“There is about 25 percent increase in the new fiscal budget but the allocation for the education sector hasn't increased accordingly,” said Prof Koirala.
Koirala, who is in Makwanpur these days, shared the teachers' and locals' reactions on the budget with Republica. “The teachers are not assured about the handing over of the 1-10 schools. But they are hopeful of the elected representatives handling it well,” he said. “It depends on how the elected representatives plan and execute it. Otherwise, it will create problems in the delivering quality of education.”
The budget does not talk about the fund contribution to the education sector by the local, provincial and central levels of governments, said Koirala. “If the teachers and elected representatives work responsibly, it will be possible to manage the schools by the local governments.”
Baburam Thapa, president of the Nepal National Teachers' Organization, said that the country with 28 percent of its people below the poverty line cannot manage the schools properly without a strong support from the central government. “Many of the local bodies cannot manage the schools and teachers' payment from their resources,” said Thapa. “If the teachers are appointed by the local units, the quality of education will be totally spoiled by the political parties appointing them.”
Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesman for the MoE, said that everything will be defined in the Local Self-governance Act, which is yet to be formulated. “Definitely, the local bodies will be given autonomy to govern and manage the schools,” he added.