Tanka Chhetri A teacher marks his attendance at one of the schools in Hairban Municipality in this recent picture.
SARLAHI, June 20: Dilliram Bhattarai, principal of Janata Adharbhut Vidyalaya of Hariban-8 had a huge headache. No matter how much he would request teachers to come to school on time, they would not heed him. To make it worse, they would even leave quite early. "I needed to confront them every day. It is not a pleasant thing to quarrel with teachers every day," he said. "But now, I am very much relieved," he added.
What has relieved him of the daily confrontation is the newly installed biometric fingerprint attendance system at the school. Teachers have been taking the biometric fingerprint attendance system seriously, as it keeps accurate attendance records of the teachers and the school provides salary to them based on attendance records.
"Teachers are now coming exactly on time and leaving only after school is over. I do not have to confront anyone," said Bhattarai. He added that the impact has been so good that there are no leisure classes anymore, though it was very common earlier.
The school operates from 6am to 11am. Earlier, teachers would come at 7am and some would reach school even at 8am, according to the principal. "Now, as the new attendance system keeps exact records, teachers enter school at 6 in the morning and leave at 11. This is a wonderful tool, we always needed this," he said, adding that the system has become a hard cane for 'lazy teachers'.
The credit for installing the system goes to Hariban Municipality, which claims of being committed to improve education quality in community schools. After a lot of brainstorming over the ways to bring changes, officials concluded that biometric attendance system could be the key to discipline the teachers. Mayor of the municipality, Ganesh Prasai, shared that to make the teachers more responsible attendance records of all the teachers are made public. "Attendance records of the teachers and staffs are circulated to municipal office, guardians, and to the education department," he stated.
The municipality has installed such attendance systems in 27 of its community schools. This has brought a dramatic change in teachers' performance and behavior. Prasai said that they installed attendance systems in all the schools at once to discipline teachers that were not heeding to repeated requests from the school management and to delivery strong message that 'teachers should be teachers'.
"Look at the private schools, if you go late just a minute, you are questioned, embarrassed. Even when you need a holiday, there is no excuse. But in community school, they are all so relaxed, as if they are not teachers," Prasai noted. "So, this very deep rooted ill-culture of taking your duty easy had to be challenged. And we found a simple solution, biometric attendance," he added.
As some teachers in the community schools have been quite undisciplined, they have not been able to give good culture to students as well, Prasai further asserted further adding that the biometric system has not left any means to evade their responsibilities.
The municipality and the school managements took such a course following complaints from parents regarding poor performance of children studying in community schools. "Despite huge investment in community schools, well paid teachers and even proper infrastructures, they would not deliver well," said Prasai. "And due to the lack of quality in such schools, even poor parents were forced to take away their kids to private institutions," he said.
Hariban Municipality has installed biometric attendance systems in 27 of its community schools. This has brought a dramatic change in teachers' attendance, performance and behavior.
The municipality aims to improve all kinds of development indicators and education is at the top this list. For this, the office is investing in improving education standards at all levels - primary to the higher secondary. Prasai stated that apart from installation of biometric attendance system in schools, they are also working on improving other fronts like developing children's personality and quality of education in schools.
"We are thinking of ways to improve teaching ability of teachers and performance of students. Our objective is to offer quality education in all of our community schools," he said. "We want to put an end to the shameful state of the schools," he added.
Tikaram Dhakal, administration officer at the municipality stated that the office cuts of salaries of teachers for the hours/days they have been late. He added that there is no way for the teachers to modify the data of the attendance system.
"Our IT officers bring the attendance record on pen drive every month and we issue salary on its basis," he said adding that they closely scrutinize the time they come to and leave the school.
A local of Hariban - 8, Rabindra Bhattarai applauded this. Stating that this is going to be a key to improve quality education in community schools, he said that private schools might close now. "When you are offered quality education at moderate fees, why would you send children to costly schools? We are confident that things are going to improve a lot here," he remarked.
The municipality office has tried similar approach in other areas as well. Health post, ward offices and even at the municipality office itself, electronic attendance has already come into effect. "We have to follow the pace of time," Dhakal said.