A school in Patarasi Rural Municipality, Jumla remains closed till now though it was supposed to open after Dashain holidays. | Photo: Republica
JUMLA, Nov 13: Schools in Jumla had announced holiday only till Dashain. However, schools here have not opened even after Tihar. This has left students with no option but to stay at home idle.
"Our children are supposed to go to school. Festivals are over. But they are staying at home, playing all the time," said Khadka Bahadur Kadayat, a resident of Jumla Bazar. "As teachers have returned from holidays till now, schools are still closed."
This actually happens here almost every year. After they go home for Dashain, teachers hardly return on time. Due to the lack of teachers in the district, most schools here hire teachers from elsewhere. Some of these teachers are from Tarai region and these teachers do not return before Chhat festival.
"It is a huge problem here. There is scarcity of teachers from the local population. Mathematics, English, Science are considered hard subjects and teachers for those subjects are mostly from Tarai," said Kadayat. "And their greatest festival is Chhat, it applies for many of the people of the Tarai. And when they go home for Dashain, they stay well beyond it," he added.
Though schools were supposed to open after Dashain holidays, most of them remain closed across the district even after Tihar holidays. While locals blame absence of teachers, schools blame it on absence of students.
Not everyone is however ready to consider the 'problem' of the Tarai teachers. According to Shila Budha, it is not reasonable for teachers to prolong their holiday that way.
"That is not the right thing to do. That affects students' studies," she noted. "If they want holidays, they have to arrange it in a way that does not affect the students. Some teachers could come early and resume studies at the school while some teachers could come later," she added.
Locals are unhappy as the teachers of even community schools have not been back. The teachers are paid by the government, and it is their duty to abide by the government rules, they argue.
"In government or community schools, they are paid adequately. And there are certain rules they must follow. However, teachers are very negligent. It is happening due to lack of supervision," Budha remarked.
As per existing provisions, schools need to remain open 200 days in a year. However, this has not been the case in Jumla. Even the four big schools located around the district headquarters Khalanga have no record of remaining open for that many days. In the winter, the schools have to be closed due to the harsh weather. And if the schools do not open during the rest of the year, it is challenging to keep them open for 200 days.
Dhan Bahadur Budha, a resident of Lumgaun, Patarasi Rural Municipality, accused the local administration of not addressing the problem. "The teachers are not serious. They think that the schools do not have a choice. This attitude reflects in their work and attitude," he reads. "Even during other festivals, they take more then the approved time for returning to work."
Children in Lumgaun enjoy playing at water taps and streets whole day, Dhan Bahadur said. 'This way, they are going to forget even the lessons they learnt earlier.'
"Studying is not something our children want to do. They want to wander around and play all the time. We send them to school so that they could have a brighter future. But what to say, neither they are serious nor are the schools serious," he said. "Now they will forget even the few lessons they learnt with difficulty. As a result, they won't do well in exams," he added.
There are 92 primary, 31 lower secondary, 46 secondary and 15 higher secondary schools in Jumla. Almost 31,000 children study in community schools. There is no exact data regarding the number of childrens out of schools, but locals claim half of the children are still at home.
"Our educational scenario is not good. We need a lot of improvement. We should make community schools better. But the government is not serious on this," Dhan Bahadur commented.
Locals urge the local and the provincial government to take initiatives to improve education in the region. After the restructuring of the country, it is the duty of the provincial and local government to take care of the education and health stutus of their area, they argue.
Krishna Bahadur Adhikari, principal at the Bhanu Secondary School in Hima Rural Municipality, defended the teachers and claimed that the schools have been closed due to the lack of students.
"It is not that teachers are absent. It is that our students have not come to school. They will come after Tihar," he said. "Even if we keep school open, children won't come, what to do?"