KATHMANDU, Aug 9: The School Sector Development Plan (SSDP), a multi-donor program introduced to improve the quality of education in Nepal, has turned ineffective in achieving its target. Education experts in various districts claim that the program has failed to meet its goals. Though the initiative has brought some positive changes in the physical infrastructures of schools, there has not been any progress in the quality of education.
The project has been spending around Rs 400 million in each district annually since the last seven years. The government endorsed this program in 2009 with the aim of improving community education in Nepal. Under this project, nine more programs have been stressed in order to uplift the education sector.
Statistics and observation in Dang, Ilam, Chitwan and Kapilvastu among other districts show that the government has failed to meet most of the objectives of the SSDP despite massive influx of money in the project. One of the main objectives of the project is to increase the enrollment of students in government schools, which has not been achieved as planned.
The failure of this project is very much obvious in Dang district. As per the records of the District Education Office (DEO), Dang, there has been no increment in the number of students at all since the launch of this program. Instead, the enrollment has decreased in some of the schools.
“Still, around 3 percent of students in this district are out of schools,” said Devmani Chaudhary, assistant education officer.
Every year, this program provides a separate budget for the development of Montessori classes. According to Chaudhary, many schools have provided flawed reports of Montessori classes to the DEO. For instance, Nardevi Secondary School of Teghara, Ghorahi takes grants for three Montessori classes although it runs only one class, informed a teacher seeking anonymity.
There has been a decrease in enrollment of students in the district this year as compared to last year. Figures provided by the DEO shows that 4,000 fewer students were enrolled this year.
“It is really disappointing to see the number of students decreasing while there has been no improvement in the education level,” said Chaudhary.
This program has not been successful in managing teacher-student ratio either. As per the rules, there should be 40 students per teacher but one teacher is taking responsibility of 60 students at a time. The SSDP spent a lot of money for conducting skill development trainings for teachers but such trainings were not fruitful according to the participants.
The government had previously run the School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP) which was later replaced by SSDP.
Likewise, Chitwan district receives around Rs 400 million through the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) every year. For the current fiscal year, the DEO, Chitwan has sent proposal to the government to allocate Rs 408 million for the project in the district, according to Deputy District Education Officer Gangadhar Rimal. Similar amount was allocated last year as well.
Infrastructure development projects and scholarship to students also fall under the SSDP. In Chitwan, the concerned authorities have been prioritizing infrastructure development above anything else. But the scenario in the district suggests that the budget is not being spent wisely. There are 377 schools in the district and 90 percent of them have good infrastructure. Only about 40 schools are in need of better buildings.
In Ilam district, millions of rupees spent under the SSDP have not been justified in terms of its achievements. Although infrastructure development has been satisfactory, there has not been any achievement in capacity building.
The DEO and Education Training Centre in the district have been organizing various seminars and workshops with an objective to enhance capacity of the teachers. However, the common complaint among the parents is that the teachers are not able to teach as per their expectation despite being provided with the trainings frequently.
“Our children inform us that teachers frequently attend trainings. But the way they approach the student and conduct studies have not changed,” said Binod Rai, a local of Fakphokthum.
Under the SSDP, schools each year receive budget for infrastructure and capacity building. However, in lack of what infrastructures are needed and what type of training to provide to the teachers, the SSDP’s achievements have not been much noteworthy, according to those with knowledge about the district’s education sector.
In Kapilvastu district, about Rs 3 billion has been spent in the past seven years under the project. However, the authorities have not even achieved half of their expectations. Various schools in the district, including Kanakmuni Higher Secondary School of Kapilvastu Municipality, reported continuous fall in the number of primary level students since the past few years.
“About 5-7 years ago, the school used to be filled with so many students of primary level. Now after continually diminishing numbers, there only are 315 students in the primary level,” informed Kanakman Shrestha, principal of Kanakmuni HSS.
According to him, conditions of other schools are the same. “We sense that the quality of government schools has been continually deteriorating, due to which parents are reluctant to admit their children in government schools,” added Shrestha. Many of those incidents point out to an apparent failure of SSDP despite high influx of budget in the project.
(Devendra Basnet from Dang, Bhim Chapagain from Ilam, Kiranman Bajracharya from Kapilvastu and Ramesh Paudel from Chitwan contributed to this report)