The Kathmandu Post
Finance minister has added some new programmes but without adequate funding
- BINOD GHIMIRE, KATHMANDU, Despite a slight increment compared to the current fiscal year, the budget allocated for fiscal year 2019/20 in the education sector is nowhere close to Nepal Communist Party’s commitment made in its election manifesto and government’s reiterated global pledge to allocated 20 percent in the sector.
The budget presented for the upcoming fiscal year shows the government hasn’t taken its constitutional liability to ensure free school education to every child seriously.
Of the Rs 1.53 trillion national budget, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada allocated Rs 163.76 billion for the pre-primary to the university level education for all three tiers of government. It is around 10.68 percent of the national budget which is slightly higher than around 10.20 percent for the current fiscal year.
However, it is around half of what the left alliance, now Nepal Communist Party, had pledged in its election manifesto in 2017. The volume of the education budget which reached 17.1 percent against the national budget in 2011/2012 has declined by 7 percentage points since then. It has been hovering at around 10 percent for the last four years.
Education experts say the government has not realised that the country cannot get on the path of prosperity without progress in the education sector. Experts have time and again called for an adequate budget for teachers’ development, student support system, extracurricular and co-curricular activities and student-friendly infrastructure development.
They say the government’s School Sector Development Programme, which has been running since 2016, has set quality improvement as its main priority, but it is not reflected in the budget allocation.
A large chunk of the budget-over 80 percent-is being spent in the payment of salary to the teachers and officials and most of what has remained is being allocated to meet the infrastructure and administrative costs. Only around 3 percent of the budget is being invested in education quality improvement programmes.
Educationist Mana Prasad Wagle, former dean at Kathmandu University, said the budget gives no room for optimism when it comes to education.
“This is the second budget of the powerful government which had pledged 20 percent educational budget before the election. It only sold election dreams,” he told the Post.
The government has announced to start some ambitious programmes like setting up President Education Reform Fund, marking the next 10 years as a decade to improve quality of public schools, expanding midday meal programme and providing free sanitary pads in every school through the budget. It has also envisioned promoting university education and developing Nepal into a higher education destination.
However, going by the budget allocation, experts say, they seem like hollow promises.
Only Rs 5 billion has been allocated for the education reform fund which aims to uplift infrastructure, allocate adequate teachers, provide teaching materials and set up laboratories, develop playgrounds, and hire sports teachers.
There are 29,000 public schools across the country. With the announced budget, each school will hardly get Rs 172,000.
Only Rs 8.53 billion has been allocated for improving the education quality in community schools, meaning each public schools will receive only Rs 294,000 to raise their teaching standards.
“With such paltry budget,” Wagle told the Post, “We cannot expect improvement in the education sector.”