KATHMANDU, March 4: The government is planning to announce that Nepal has achieved 100 percent literacy later this year by exaggerating the progress made on the education front.
As the government has already expedited preparations to announce Nepal as 100 percent literate country in September, 2019, education experts have termed the government plan “a publicity stunt to befool the ordinary people and hoodwink the international community.”
The government has mentioned its plan to announce the country 100 percent literate in the Non-Formal Education and Literacy Program Implementation Facilitation Guidelines 2019 and concept paper of Literate Nepal Year 2019 approved through a recent cabinet meeting.
Officials at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) said the government plans to make the declaration on September 9, marking the Literacy Day that Nepal observes annually. “We are planning to announce the country as 100 percent literate this year,” said Babu Ram Paudel, director general at the Center for Education and Human Resources Development (CEHRD) under the MoEST.
Paudel, however, said that the declaration date could change if they failed to make the necessary preparations. “If we are unable to make the declaration this year, we will do it next year,” he further said.
According to CEHRD, 7.8 million people were illiterate in 2011, while 7.8 million people were living below the poverty line. Since 2011, the government has spent Rs 7 billion on literacy campaign. “Now there are 102,101 illiterate people aged between 15 to 60 years in the country. Though we need Rs 200 million to make them literate, the government has allocated only about Rs 40.5 million for the current fiscal year,” Paudel added.
Of the total 77 districts in the country, 48 districts have already achieved 100 percent literacy among the people aged between 15 to 60, according to the MoEST. Of the remaining 29 districts, 12 are in the process of achieving 100 percent literacy while six other districts are in the final stages of achieving the target. Similarly, the remaining 12 districts still have a long way to go to achieve the target. “We have an obligation to declare the country as 100 percent literate,” said Director at CEHRD, Geh Nath Gautam.
However, according to the Non-Formal Education and Literacy Program Implementation Facilitation Guidelines 2019 and concept paper of Literate Nepal Year 2019 recently approved by the government, everyone aged above 15 has to be literate. “As per the international standard, adult literacy is defined as the percentage of literate people between the ages of 15-45 years,” claimed the MoEST officials. “Seven districts and 126 local units have claimed that all children of school-going age are enrolled in schools.”
Education expert Prof Bidya Nath Koirala said it will be a mere a publicity stunt to cheat the ordinary people and hoodwink the international community by the federal government. “Under federalism, all the responsibilities related to education and literacy now fall on the local governments. They will work on them and make the declarations after evaluation on the ground. Why is the central government making this publicity stunt without real progress?” he asked.
The education ministry officials themselves said that the government was earlier planning to declare Nepal as 100 percent literate by 2017 in an attempt to achieve the target of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have now been renamed as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “We are working in coordination with the local units for school enrollment, literacy campaign and green schools,” said Director General Paudel.
Experts argue that the governments in recent years have been making similar kinds of ‘hollow’ announcements to befool the people and hoodwink the international community. Earlier, the government had hastily declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) zones without making any tangible progress including construction of private as well as public toilets.