January 16, 2024
KATHMANDU – All the community colleges in Achham, a hill district in Sudurpaschim Province, are on the brink of closure due to low enrollment and high dropout rates.
Seven colleges are currently in operation in Achham and all of them have low enrolment. Almost all college students in the district are girls.
“More than 80 percent of students in our campus are female. The male students prefer going abroad for foreign employment or to cities to pursue higher education after completing grade 12. The villagers are now without male youths. Our students are daughters or daughters-in-law who cannot or are not allowed to go outside their villages,” said Chhatra Bista, chief at Achham Multiple Campus in Mangalsen.
According to Bista, the students enrol mainly in management and education streams but all of them do not continue till the final year. “Only a few students enrol in colleges now and some leave their studies midway,” he said.
Until a few years ago, boys outnumbered girls in all educational institutions. It is still the same up to the high school level as parents favour boys over girls in schooling. But college enrollment of boys in Achham is very low.
There are several factors, according to Bista, behind the low enrollment rate in colleges. “Many people are discouraged from pursuing bachelor’s level because it takes four years to complete the course. Lack of job guarantee further discourages students from pursuing bachelor’s courses,” said Bista.
To attract students to continue their studies with the prospect of earning a living after studies, the Achham Multiple Campus is planning to offer classes on poultry farming, beekeeping and pheasant farming. “We are requesting various government authorities to provide financial support to run such classes,” said Bista. He warned that many colleges would soon face closure unless students were linked with entrepreneurship and business.
Binita Adhikari, the chief of Panchadewal Campus located in Binayak, Panchadewal Binayak Municipality, said that the college is a centre for politics and not education.
“The campus with poor physical infrastructure becomes a political agenda for political parties during every election. But post-election there is no improvement. Due to the direct intervention of the political parties, students don’t join the campus,” said Adhikari.
According to Adhikari, currently, Bachelor’s in Education (B.Ed) and Bachelor of Business Studies (BBS) are being taught at the college. The attendance rate of students, who are mostly females, is quite low, says Adhikari.
“Using all the available resources, we have managed teachers for all the subjects to improve the quality of education on campus, but due to a lack of physical infrastructure, we have not been able to attract students,” said Adhikari.
According to Bhim Budha, the chief of Janasiksha Campus located in Mellekh Rural Municipality, BBS and B.Ed courses are taught at the college with around 300 students. Out of the total number, only some 65 students attend classes regularly. Similarly, out of 300 students, 80 percent are female.
“Only around four male students come to the college regularly,” said Budha. “The female students are also not very regular.”
Budha said that there is also a problem of female students dropping out of school after getting married.
“The college will be on the verge of closure if we lose our female students,” said Budha.
According to Ishwar Sodari, the chief of Kailash Multiple Campus and president of the Nepal Public Campus Association, Sudurpaschim, the number of students is decreasing at all 83 community colleges in Sudurpaschim.
“Students attend classes in their first and second years, but most of them stop in their third and fourth years. College officials have to reach out to the students to convince them to attend classes and exams,” said Sodari. “Youths think that there is no point in pursuing four-years bachelor’s courses. They see no job prospects.”
Sodari said that students both male and female quit studies as soon as other opportunities such as foreign employment and marriage prospects arise.
“Students who are currently enrolled in community colleges will drop out right away if they get other opportunities. There are more students in language learning institutes than in colleges. If the government does not work to solve this issue soon, then the community colleges will shut down,” said Sodari.