January 3, 2024
KATHMANDU – Pandav BK, a grade 9 student of Raghumata Secondary School at Sappata in ward 1 of Swamikartik Khapar Rural Municipality, goes to school every day although he has to sit on the floor in the classroom throughout the day’s lessons.
The classrooms in the school are just four-wall empty rooms with no desks or benches for students. The school comprises two dilapidated structures with zinc sheets for roofs and cracked walls. The students go to the nearby fields to relieve themselves since the toilet is not functional due to a lack of water supply. But despite this, all 411 students of the secondary school that runs classes from grades 9 to 12 go to school in the hopes of receiving an education.
The school has only three teachers and most of them are not qualified to teach secondary-level classes, says BK.
Sappata is one of the remotest villages in Bajura which means it is difficult to hire and retain qualified teachers in the local school.
“The constitution says every child has the right to education, but it does not apply to students like us in remote areas,” said BK. “We want to study so we can have a future. But the education we receive in the local school limits our future prospects.”
According to Purna Budha, a teacher at Raghumata Secondary School, the three teachers teach all subjects from grades 9 to 12. “We are hired on a contract basis with the help of donors, grants from the government and the budget the rural municipality set aside for education,” he said. “The government has not opened permanent posts of teachers in this school.”
There are 256 students in grades 9 and 10 and 155 students in grades 11 and 12.
According to Dipak Shahi, head of the education unit of Swamikartik Khapar Rural Municipality, there are six secondary-level schools in the rural municipality, but only three schools run classes up to grade 12. There are 24 teachers in the six secondary schools hired on a contract basis and none of them are qualified to teach Maths, Science, or English.
“The Education Development and Coordination Unit (EDCU), Bajura, has set the post of only nine permanent teachers for secondary level in the Swamikartik Khapar Rural Municipality, where there are six schools that provide education up to the secondary level. The rural municipality alone cannot afford to hire teachers for all six schools without the support of the EDCU and provincial government,” said Shahi. “The absence of qualified teachers has made it very difficult to produce competent students in the rural municipality who can pursue higher education. Seventy-four students from Raghumata Secondary School appeared for the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) held on March 31, 2023. All of them scored very poor grades. The other schools did not fare well either.”
Schools in all the local units—Swamikartik Khapar Rural Municipality, Himali Rural Municipality, Jagannath Rural Municipality and Budhinanda Municipality—in the northeast region of Bajura are facing a shortage of qualified teachers.
Himali Rural Municipality, which occupies 43 percent of the total geography of the district, has eight secondary-level schools, of which only three schools run classes up to grade 12.
According to Govinda Bahadur Malla, chairman of Himali Rural Municipality, there are only two to three teachers in each school hired on a contract basis. The EDCU has set aside only two posts of permanent teacher for the rural municipality with eight secondary-level schools.
“It is very hard to find and hire English, Maths and Science teachers for the schools on a contract basis. There are posts for teachers in all the schools, but nobody applies for them because they are not permanent,” said Malla. “All schools here run on donor funds, budget from the rural municipality and government grants.”
Kot Secondary School in Himali Rural Municipality which runs classes from grade 1 to grade 12 has only one permanent teacher at the secondary level.
Chandrabir Budha, principal of Kot Secondary School, said that even though the rural municipality has allotted the school a budget to hire secondary-level teachers, the school has not been able to hire any qualified teachers because nobody wants to come to teach in a remote place with no facilities on a contract basis.
“Some teachers coming to teach on a contract basis leave after a couple of months due to the poor condition of schools, toilets and roads, among other things. For years, we have been looking for qualified teachers. We have released advertisements but there are hardly any applicants,” said Budha. “We have been trying everything to get qualified teachers to the local schools but as long as the government does not open permanent positions for subject teachers, we will not receive applications from qualified candidates.”
Jagannath Rural Municipality has four secondary-level schools but has only two post for a permanent teacher for the secondary level. Budhinanda Municipality has six secondary schools but has only seven posts for permanent teachers across all schools.
Jay Bahadur Saud, head of the education unit of Jagannath Rural Municipality, said that the budget of a local unit allotted for education is not enough to hire and pay teachers.
“The salary of the teachers in permanent posts at the secondary level is Rs 65,000 per month but local units can only afford to pay Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000. The government should create more posts of permanent teachers for the schools in remote areas if they want to protect the education rights of children in remote areas,” said Saud.
According to the officials of Swamikartik Khapar Rural Municipality, Himali Rural Municipality, Jagannath Rural Municipality and Budhinanda Municipality, despite their repeated requests to the EDCU to create more permanent positions for teachers in the schools, they have received nothing but disappointment.
Gopal Dutta Pandey, technical assistant of the EDCU of the district, said that not only the schools in the northeastern region of Bajura, but all the schools in the nine local units of the district are facing a shortage of teachers at the secondary level.
According to the EDCU, there are 64 secondary schools in Bajura, and among them, only 17 have permanent teacher posts. Among the 17 schools, most of them have only one or two permanent teachers.
“The posts have been set by the Education Development Directorate under the Ministry of Social Development, Sudurpaschim, and without the involvement of the provincial government, the EDCU cannot solve this problem,” said Pandey.