Donor support to education wanes


The Kathmandu Post

- BINOD GHIMIRE KATHMANDU, A gradual decline in the share of bilateral and multilateral donors in budgetary support could trouble the government as its liability grows with the compulsory and free education law taking effect.

The share of grants and loans by donor agencies, which once formed a significant pie of the national education budget, has gone down significantly in the current fiscal year. 

Donors’ contribution to the education sector accounted for over 29 percent in the fiscal year 2009/10, which fell to 23 percent in 2011/12. Records at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology show that donor agencies have 10 percent budgetary contribution in the current fiscal year. The loan amount outweighs grants. 

Baikuntha Aryal, spokesperson for the ministry, said the decline in donor support has forced the government to rely on internal sources. Mostly, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, UNESCO, UNICEF, Norway and Finland are providing grants while the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank provide loans. Implementation of free and compulsory education requires huge sums of additional money—an increased challenge for the government to meet, Aryal told an interaction organised by the National Campaign for Education, an umbrella body of some 200 educational organisations, in the Capital. 

According to a rough estimate, the government needs to inject at least Rs60 billion more into the education sector to implement the free and compulsory education provision. 

Education experts say lack of governance and transparency is a major factor behind donors’ reluctance to support. “While donors’ priority is quality, the government just focuses on infrastructure and access,” said Binay Kusiyat, a Tribhuvan University professor who has undertaken several researches in the field. He added that the government’s failure to improve the quality of public schools is another reason donors are losing interest in supporting Nepal. 

Changing foreign aid policies of some donor agencies, according to Kusiyat, also led to the diminishing share in funding for education. The Danish government, one of the highest contributors, poured billions of rupees into the Education for All programme. However, it has shifted its focus to other least developed countries now. 

Though falling aid lessens dependence, countries like Nepal that have deficit budget rely on donors to run their programmes, according to Kusiyat. The decrease in donor support was evident also in the much touted 
School Sector Development Programme the government two years ago. The seven-year SSDP is estimated to cost Rs1.2 trillion, almost equal to Nepal’s current national budget. 

The ministry expects 20 percent of necessary funds—Rs240 billion—from international donors, who have pledged hardly 20 percent of the projected amount so far. Currently 17 bilateral and multilateral donors are supporting the country’s education sector.