The Kathmandu Post
DOTI : At Mahendra Basic School in Doti’s Dipayal Silgadhi Municipality, there are around 300 students but only three teachers. Just 15 minutes away from the school is Punnodaya Basic School, where there are 20 students and two teachers.
Six government-run schools in KI Singh Rural Municipality are set to be merged.post PHOTO: Mohan Shahi
Following the government’s decision to merge state-run basic schools with low student numbers, Mahendra Basic, Punnodaya Basic and six other schools in the municipality are awaiting merger.
However, disagreements among stakeholders over issues such as locals’ unwillingness to move their children’s school to another location and teachers’ refusal to travel inconvenient distances to teach have created hurdles in the merger.
“It is necessary to merge these schools because we cannot continue to bear unnecessary expenses,” Mayor Manju Malasi said. “But the merger process has not progressed due to disagreements among locals.”
The lopsided student-teacher ratio is affecting the classes of not just Mahendra Basic School and Punnodaya Basic School, but several other schools in Doti district.
In KI Singh Rural Municipality of the district, there are six schools that fit the government’s criteria for merger. And here, too, the concerned schools seem directionless about starting the process.
“There are no clear directions. For instance, it is unclear which school management should be at the helm of running the school after the merger, or how the responsibilities should be divided,” said Sher Bahadur Bogati, an official at the rural municipality.
“Even the people’s representatives in the district are unwilling to take a call on the matters of school merger because they do not want to anger their voters.”
Tho address the issue of teacher shortage some schools have hired contract teachers.
Dirgha Bahadur Kathayat, the headmaster of Dilpeshwor Secondary School, said the school was compelled to appoint contract teachers to run the daily classes.
“We have to pay the contract teachers from our own resources. Schools should be merged because we cannot afford to hire private teachers and pay them without charging tuition fees,” Kathayat said.
“Concrete steps must be taken by all parties concerned to narrow the gap between the number of students and teachers.”
Hemraj Joshi, chairman of the Community Development Centre, said the children will suffer the most if the schools with uneven student-teacher ratio are not merged.
“If the state-run schools are forced to charge tuition fees to hire teachers, then the government’s free education programme is not going to work,” Joshi said.