Lack of funds greatly hampers our public primary schools, making the quality of education they deliver great suspect.
In the past few decades Nepal’s initiative in decentralized education has resulted in transfer of considerable state funds to schools. In dealing with school finance, the head teacher and School Management Committee (SMC) chairman assume key roles, more so in the case of locally generated funds as schools enjoy more flexibility in using them compared to the funds transferred from the center. Meanwhile, a World Bank research (2012/13) shows that financing is the most talked about issue in SMC and Parents Teacher Association (PTA) meetings, followed by infrastructure, quality of education and student-related issues. School finance is important for school stakeholders for many reasons.
As enshrined in the constitution of Nepal 2015, basic-level education in Nepal is free and compulsory. But lack of funds greatly hampers our public primary schools, making the quality of education they deliver a suspect. This can be overcome if school administration is committed to fiscal transparency and thereby building trust. This will make concerned stakeholders come forward to offer funds as and when needed. Schools, then, will be able to generate and manage state as well as local resources in a credible manner.
If the head teacher is transparent in fund-management, it will help him win the trust of locals and concerned stakeholders. When schools suffer economic crunch, the community will support them if they are convinced that school administration is committed to a high standard of education. Take the example of Khandrung Secondary School in Ilam.
The head teacher there has transformed his school by generating needed resources in just 18 months of his appointment. This was possible as the locals have faith that the head teacher won’t misuse even a single penny. This is one example of how winning the confidence of stakeholders can help deal with financial problems.
Some schools have explored innovative ways of generating local funds. In Jitpur Secondary School, Ilam, for example, they collect funds by performing different cultural dances during festivals. School authorities have thus collected funds from the community for school-upgrade up to grade 12. They intended to collect only Rs 800,000 but ended up with Rs 1.2 million. The community contributed generously as it was convinced that the school was doing its best to serve them. So having a good track record is a foolproof means for fund collection. There are also other means.
There are schools using more creative ways to mobilize local resources. The head teacher of Khandrung Secondary School, also in Ilam, has himself established an endowment fund in his father’s name, as was the wish of his father. Surely, this will set an example for other schools.
The head teacher of this school has established a rule that 10 percent of tuition fees from grade 10 students would be used as a source of internal income for the school.
State funding alone is unlikely to address all financial needs of public schools. As a result, they are adopting innovative ways of raising funds.
As Nepal is implementing the federal system, policy provisions conferring powers to local bodies—village and municipal councils—won’t be enough to ensure successful public sector governance. The only viable way out is enhancing the capacity of local actors, including in the field of education. Specifically, leadership qualities and capabilities of head teachers, school management committees (SMCs) and Parents Teacher Associations (PTAs) need to be enhanced. Then, as we have seen, these schools may not have to depend on the state to deliver quality education to the communities they serve.
The author is a researcher at Martin Chautari, Kathmandu