The School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) was going to change Nepal’s education landscape. With a budget of US$10.5 billion to be spent over a seven-year period (2016/17-2022/23), the project is far from achieving the stated objectives. A yet-to-be published mid-term review paints a damning picture of the ongoing multi-billion dollar education project, with more than half of the 10 objectives having “reporting gaps” and “not achieved” as their progress status. Moreover, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have been skeptical of the government’s literacy achievement claims, and they are not keen to further support SSDP. The mid-term report suggests reviewing the goals and time-frame of the project. The project has already spent US$ 6.46 billion and is expected to spend US$ 3.33 billion in the next three years.
Republica has previously reported issues of corruption and wrongdoings inside SSDP, previously School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP). Yet, no action was taken against those involved and no measure was taken to correct the wrongs. It appears the project was implemented without much preparation, and in the midst of the political transition in 2016/17. The SSRP ran from 2009-15, which failed miserably and the project name was changed in 2016/17. In June 2018, a report in this daily stated that the donors were exerting pressure to change the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for bringing out better results in the second phase, known as SSDP. An assessment of 46,266 students of Grade 8 was carried out in 1,950 schools in 26 districts in 2017. It covered Nepali, Math and Science, and the result revealed decline in achievement in Math and Science between 2013 and 2017.
According to the mid-term review, one of the reasons for dismal performance of the project is due to the lack of federal education act. A proper coordination among federal, provincial and local levels is clearly lacking in education sector. Local governments have been entrusted to oversee schools and health centers, but the relevant laws are yet to be formulated to guide the proper transfer of responsibilities. The federal government must expedite formulating laws to facilitate the transfer of power to the local government to oversee school systems. More importantly, US $10.5 billion is not a small amount for the country. The SSDP is not working and the government must find out ways to make it work or scrap it all together. We just cannot afford to have failed projects being run under a different name.