Friday, 11 July 2014

Education Sector Ailing

Education is one of the important factors for the entire development of a nation. It is a key to awareness; which is the only way to manifest peace and prosperity within the nation. Nobody, from the king to a layman, denies that education is most essential for us to move forward to a civilized world. In a recent visit to Kalikot, His Majesty the King Gyanendra's (no longer in power) only message to little children was to attend school so that they could be educated and could contribute to the nation afterwards. The underlying meaning of the King's statement is crystal clear: the future depends only upon educated citizens.
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It is our bad luck that such a sensitive sector is always under political influence in Nepal. If any political crisis arises, educational institutions are the first victims. Although political leaders give their lip service to keep education free of political interference, conflict and terror, and to make it a peace zone, the reality is different. If the political parties are so dedicated to keep education out of politics, why are there frequent strikes in educational institutions to fulfill their vested interests? Do the organizers of such silly bandha programs have any idea of how much mental and financial loss people have to bear?

All school students are on the brink of sitting their end of semester exams. So, it is very important for them to go to school and learn more. A recent news item says that about 7.5 million Nepali students and thousands of teachers are affected by the recent closures. Students are not only deprived of going to school regularly, but also are terrified and bewildered. One of the high school girls writes in a daily newspaper that the frequent strikes are clouding their futures in darkness and the students are getting frustrated. She further writes, "Even if we go to schools we remain terrified all the time. The school buildings are being destroyed, the school buses are being torched and even students and teachers are being abducted. In this situation how can we concentrate on our study?"

On the other hand, teachers, who are trying to complete their courses smoothly according to the pre-set calendar, are also confused. If there is a closure for seven days a month unnecessarily, how effectively can students learn? And how effectively can teachers teach? Hence all the annual programs are set in advance and they have to follow the scheduled calendar. Obviously the school management cannot change their schedule frequently to adjust with these unpredictable bandhas. As a result they do not target working days, at least 150 days a year, and everything turns to topsy-turvy. Teachers hasten to complete their course and students are affected by not getting enough time to discuss their difficulties. Not only this, due to irregularity they may lose interest in their study and cannot relate their previous learning to present one. There is yet another danger with pre-primary or primary level students that they may forget everything they have learned before.

Except for school-going children  , there is another lot of students who are preparing for the upcoming School Leaving Certificate (SLC) Examination. Each day is valuable for them. Their attention should not be diverted to the countless bandhas that occur at least once a month.

Similarly, parents have invested a huge amount of money, time as well as energy towards their children's education. Such strikes are making them frustrated and hopeless. So they are taking their children out of school and sending them to other countries for safe study. A report shows that about 10,000 secondary level students leave the country annually due to the regular closures and ongoing conflicts. When a student goes out of the country they will certainly take out ample amount of national currency. This is only a case of a handful of capable students from rich families. But there are others who cannot afford to go abroad in the pursuit of a stable education. What are they supposed to do?

A protest is done to achieve something. There are many other ways to show disagreement apart from Nepal or Kathmandu valley bandha. The nation is paying more than enough for the unproductive strikes. So, why should we let them continue? They are totally whimsical. If the organizers say it is bandha, there will be a bandha, and if they say it is taken back, it is over. The bandhas are nothing but a product of immature minds who do not have the power of rationalization, a basic quality to be a human. They are simply playing a dangerous game with the future of millions.

Thus, this is a time for one and all concerned to gather and find alternatives for bandhas so that educational institutions are not victimized any more, they should really be declared as a peace zone in practice. These unnecessary strikes may cause transitory hardships currently, but they have unfathomable effects in the years to come, of such magnitude that we can not accurately predict the full impact now.          
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Thursday, March 4, 2004)

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I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).