MoE, local bodies at odds over federalism

Published On: January 5, 2018 01:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Jan 5:  A row between the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the local bodies has surfaced in course of incorporating the education system in the new federal structure.

The rift between the ministry and the local bodies regarding delegating power and responsibilities is widening, said a senior official at the MoE.

For instance, the MoE recently assigned its undersecretary Prahlad Aryal to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City for handling the education office. 

However, the ministry is preparing to recall Aryal because of lack of coordination at the metropolis office, according to sources at the ministry.

Saraswati Pokharel, the joint spokesperson for the MoE, said that the local bodies have started working without necessary coordination with the ministry. 

“The local bodies have definitely been given authority to operate autonomously but it does not mean that they should not abide by the laws of the country,” she added.

The government allocated Rs 131 billion for the education sector in the fiscal year 2017/2018. The ministry has already released 60 percent of the allocated budget to the local bodies to pay the government teachers, other staffers and to run the education offices. However, they haven't submitted any report to the ministry about the use of the funds provided by the government.

The ninth amendment to the Education Act 2017 has provisioned scraping the district education offices (DEO) from April 13 this year. Until then, the DEOs will be coordinating with the local bodies and the ministry. After the cut-off date, the local bodies will be responsible to report to the ministry directly.

However, a majority of local bodies have already stopped coordinating with the ministry, according to Pokharel. 

“Though the ministry has planned to establish education offices in each of the 753 local units, only one education officer has been deputed so far,” said Pokharel. “How can such offices deliver efficient services at the local bodies?” she questioned.

“If the government provides funds to the local bodies, shouldn't they be accountable to the ministry?” the MoE official questioned.  “They should be transparent in expenditure and income of the respective local bodies. But they are working as if they are separate and independent entities,” said an official at the ministry.

The local bodies have started working at their will without considering the laws of the land. It has been learned that some local bodies were trying to appoint permanent teachers in public schools under their ambit, said Pokharel. 

“Permanent teachers can be appointed only by the Teachers' Service Commission.  How can they take such decision?” she wondered. “They can only appoint temporary teachers in coordination with the education offices.”

On one hand, the local bodies have taken themselves as autonomous bodies and on the other hand, the MoE officials are disinterested in working at the local bodies as they still prefer to work as per the old centralized system, according to the sources.

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