It is quite unfortunate that the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has slashed one third of the budget for the national literacy campaign initiated in 2009 to achieve one of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets in education, citing the dismal result of the campaign. The decision to cut the budget from Rs 1.04 billion for the fiscal years 2009 and 2010 to Rs 688 million this fiscal year is a big blow to the movement of the Non-Formal Education Sector (NFEC) to make people between the ages of 5 to 45 literate.
This year, MoF has only allotted a budget aimed at making people, who failed for various reasons to attend formal schooling before turning 15, able to read and write. Such a hasty decision to cut down on the education budget in a country where seven million children above six years of age are illiterate is definitely unwise and will have serious repercussions in the near future.
According to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics last year, 86 percent of youths between 15 to 24 years of age are not even able to read and write a simple letter and this stems from the fact that education for children was never taken seriously by previous governments.
If the government even today does not learn from past mistakes and keeps on cutting down the budget aimed at making our children literate, then chances are we will always have a significant majority of our youths illiterate. The irony is that at a time when governments in our neighborhood are taking education seriously and investing hefty sums in it, our own government has decided to cut 30 percent of the budget for education.
Yet another irony is that while on the one hand the government has decided to cut the budget for education, it has on the other decided to sanction Rs 1 billion for the Ministry of Education to hire more teachers to support schools that are facing a scarcity of teachers. However, there are 12,000 redundant teachers across the country who are costing the country Rs 120 million annually.
In this context, the only logical thing to do would have been to send those redundant teachers to the schools lacking in teachers and instead of spending a billion on hiring new teachers, use the money for funding the NFEC campaign.
Sadly, all these unfortunate decisions prove that education is yet to get the topmost priority in our country. We demand that education be prioritized to achieve the goal of making all Nepalis literate in order to set our country off on the course of development.