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Nepal - Landsbyskoler under lokal kontrol og styring
NEPAL: Community-run schools make progress
IRINnews.org, 9. august 2005
Under maoistkonflikten har uddannelsessystemet og specielt landsbyskolerne været meget hårdt ramt. Gennem de seneste to år er omkring 2.200 skoler med succes overdraget til lokal-samfundene, da konflikten allerede på dette tidspunkt gjorde det umuligt for myndighederne i Kathmandu at kontrollere skolerne i landområderne.
Since the Maoist campaign to overthrow the government began nine years ago, education has been one of the hardest hit development sectors. On the advice of aid agencies, the government is continuing the process of decentralising the public education system in line with the Local Self Governance Act of 1999.
In the past two years, nearly 2,200 schools have been handed over to local community control. The move followed calls by experts for the government to relinquish power over a sector it could not control, especially in Maoist-controlled villages. It was believed that poor, local communities would meet with less interference as the Maoists tried to hang on to dwindling local support.
Under the Community School Support Programme (CSSP) the government provides a grant of nearly US $1,500 to each community-managed public school. Supported and spearheaded by the World Bank, these schools will now be run independently without any interference from the government.
"Such an initiative can help Nepal to achieve its education goals," said education expert Sanphe Lhalungpa from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The programme has already proved to be a big success in enrolling children in many districts, he said, noting one of the agency's key challenges was preventing children from dropping out of education.
"What makes the programme special is that we will be able to keep a lot of children in school, which otherwise would not have been possible," Rajendra Joshi, a senior education specialist of the World Bank, added.
Retention of students, especially at the primary level, has always posed a big challenge in the country of 28 million, which according to the United Nations has one of the highest school dropout rates in the world. Analysts note that the Himalayan kingdom had a record 70 percent dropout rate for children between the ages of six and 10 years even before the armed Maoist rebellion began. They believe with some certainty that those rates would undoubtedly have worsened since.
Experts cite a lack of school supplies, irresponsible and untrained teachers, combined with a lack of child-friendly school environments, as the main causes.
"Most of the government schools are so under-funded that they have to manage with an annual budget of less than $150," Helen Sherpa from the World Education Group (WEG) explained.
But now experts believe that there could be progress. The government has plans to hand over all 27,000 schools in a few years, providing a unique education model to the developing world, according to international education specialists.
The community schools will be controlled by locally appointed committees consisting of local social workers, teachers and parents who are primarily farmers, labourers and ordinary villagers. They have the power to hire good teachers and terminate those whose services fail to reach the required standard.
"In the past, all the government has managed to do is appoint those teachers who were politicised and not good enough," explained Joshi. "One thing is for sure. When the community takes over, they would lose all the bad teachers," he added.
Indeed, according to the government's district education officers, many politically appointed teachers neglect their duties altogether and remain absent for months giving the Maoist problem as an excuse.
One success being cited is community-managed schools in western Nepal, a region badly affected by the Maoist insurgency. In the course of this year in Banke district, nearly 700 km west of the capital Kathmandu, 21,632 children were enrolled compared to just 17,318 in 2004, according to the World Education Group.
"In addition, 4,000 more children stayed in school, which proves that with such effective community-based programmes, conflict is not necessarily the real obstacle," said Sherpa.
While many feel that this is an effective programme, they also note that the government must continue monitoring school activities and provide more guidance to local communities so that they can manage the schools effectively in the long run.
Under its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Nepal seeks the enrolment of all its children in education by 2015 but analysts claim that the problem is providing continuity to programmes. In the past, Nepal has had effective programmes which were phased out even before the goals were achieved.
"The government should realise that its responsibility does not end by handing over its responsibilities to communities. Giving grants is not enough," education expert Labaraj Oli asserted.
Meanwhile, there is some concern among educators whether communities are in fact capable of managing the schools since they are not well educated themselves, neither are they professionally trained.
"Such prejudice only proves that we tend to look down on grassroots communities," said Joshi, who believes that communities are more responsible and accountable when it comes to their children's schooling.
"This is not about undertaking technical responsibilities but knowing who is a good or a bad teacher," added Joshi
Shankar Sharma, vice-chairman of the government's National Planning Commission, maintained that at the core of the issue is the objective of securing peace for Nepal.
"There is a sign that we may be able to achieve our Millennium Development Goal. It all depends on the intensity of the conflict. Once there is peace, we could achieve about 75 percent of our goals," he said.
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