Even as Dr Govinda KC, crusader against corruption, is planning for his 16th fast unto death against the government for not fulfilling his demands, the government seems reluctant to pass the Medical Education Bill from the parliament or pass it by altering it in a way that leaves many of agreements reached with Dr KC undressed. The government had reached a nine-point agreement with Dr KC on July 26 in which it had agreed to amend 22 provisions of Medical Education Bill. The sub-committee meeting of Education and Health Committee held recently has made it clear that they are not going to include all the contents of nine-point agreement in National Health and Education Bill. It shows the government is least bothered to fulfill the promises it made with Dr KC and that it is keen on pushing the ageing orthopedic surgeon to another round of hunger strike. This is not fair.
On the other hand, the government is also drafting a National Education Bill with the aim of ending private investment in school education in seven years’ time. But Minister for Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel wants to exempt Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) from the bill not for the purpose of bringing much-needed reforms in education sector but to issue affiliations to over 1,000 private colleges. After he was appointed education minister 10 months ago, more than 500 affiliations under TU and around 358 affiliations under CTEVT have been granted to private colleges. Troublingly, exchange of kickbacks has also been suspected. Nepal’s education ministers—from Dina Nath Sharma to Chitra Lekha Yadav to Dhani Ram Paudel to Gopal Man Shrestha—have all made it a point to grant affiliations to private colleges including medical colleges without caring for basic standards. It reflects the duplicity of our leaders who promise to enhance public education system and regulate private school system while out of power and do the exact opposite when they are in power.
The said move of education minister goes against the spirit of the agreement signed with Dr KC. In agreement with Dr KC, the government had agreed, among other things, to phase out intermediate level health workers within five years, upgrade the qualifications of intermediate level health workers and bring CTEVT under a high level commission to be formed under new Medical Education Act. Now Minister Pokharel wants to retain CTEVT under education ministry purportedly to keep on issuing affiliations. His stand that CTEVT should be left alone by the new law raises the suspicion of exchange of commissions. Dr KC has accused the government of not approving Medical Education Bill to keep this commission racket intact. Why should the government default on its own promise made with the crusading doctor? Why must not CTEVT’s health programs be brought under High Level Medical Education Commission? We believe that since Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli himself had held talks with Dr KC and promised to address his demands in the aftermath of his 15th strike, the PM should not allow his minister to indulge in any act that could potentially serve interests of private college operators at the cost of public education and that forces Dr KC to launch yet another protest.