KATHMANDU, Feb 4: These days, private schools are mushrooming in Kathmandu and most of them are located in places you’d least expect to see a school hoarding board. With a small land in front and a small building in the name of infrastructure, one wonders if classrooms are spacious enough, if the school has enough toilets or a library and a computer lab at all.
Dr Tulashi Prasad Thapaliya, Under Secretary at the Ministry of Education, confirms that government schools are constructed either on public property or land allocated by the government. Most private schools, however, are constructed on rental property.
Education Rules 2059 BS/2002 AD (sixth amendment 2067 BS), Schedule 3, states ‘infrastructures for establishing a school’. Under this law, height of a classroom should be nine feet; per student area should not be less than 0.75 square meters in pre-primary and primary schools and one meter in case of lower secondary and secondary schools.
A classroom should have a minimum of 22, maximum of 44 and 33 students in average, in each section of a private school. There is a different provision for government schools in the Act.
Apart from these pre-requisites, it also states requirements like good hygiene in and around the school environment, provision of furniture according to the number of students and separate toilets for boys and girls. Library, teaching materials, spacious school compound surrounded by a wall along with sports materials, science lab equipments as per curriculum and first aid among many others.
But so many schools that we see in our localities are located on a property that was initially built for private residence and later on, given out to schools on lease.
There are two procedures for opening a school, first is taking permission from the government. This is when the school applies for registration and second is approval.
“Because many schools do not meet the requirements as per the Education Rules, they are not approved by the government or take a few years to get approval. But there are many schools who are operating even without official approval from the government or the District Education Office,” informs Dr Thapaliya, adding, “The Department of Education (DoE) under the Ministry, in an effort to focus on the upgrading of already operating schools, has stopped giving approvals to new schools from this year.”
Swagat Shrestha, president of Higher Secondary School Association, Nepal (HISAN) and Chairman of Kathmandu Valley School and College, cites the current economic condition as the main reason why most schools are not meeting the prerequisites. “The government should revise the Education Act because if one looks around, the government schools are not constructed in the way the paperwork requires them to, the infrastructure is under par.”
Karishma Karki, a teacher of Mass Communication and Journalism at St. Mary’s High School, says, “A good infrastructure is not just about impressing the students and parents but it also exudes respect and a good and healthy infrastructure teaches students to respect public property.”
“With spacious and well lit rooms, schools will have opportunities to host interactive programs like seminars, conferences and stage shows among other things. However, there are schools with good infrastructure which charge exuberant fees,” she adds, “Good infrastructure doesn’t necessarily imply standard education and vice-versa. A school should have planned, practical, strategically placed, utilitarian and hygienic infrastructure to provide comfortable and relaxed learning environment.”
“I feel a good infrastructure allows students to place trust on their institution when they know their needs aren’t being compromised,” said Nibha Manandhar, 20, a student of Sociology and Economics. She adds that Nepal has limited facility, be it the infrastructure or technology in schools but the private schools in Kathmandu do try and maintain the outer look and facilities for their own sake and fare much better than the public institutions.
“Since I am a student of computer science, infrastructure of a school is a top priority. It has to be up to the set standard and upgrade itself time and again mostly in terms of technology,” shares Ayush Suwal, a student of Computer Science at Deerwalk Institute of Technology, Shifal, “When parents are choosing a school for their children, they will keep in mind what they are getting in return for their money, like if the school has provision of extra curricular activities and whether or not their kids will get exposure in their respective fields.”