Monday, February 21, 2011

    Provide free education till Plus Two: SC

    In a remarkable decision today, the Supreme Court asked the government to provide free education up to secondary level.A division bench of Justices Bala Ram KC and Bharat Bahadur Karki issued the verdict directing the government to ensure free education up to secondary level in all the government and community schools as per the constitution and promulgate a separate Act if necessary.

    The apex court is sued the verdict responding to a public interest litigation filed by Lekhnath Neupane, former chairman of All Nepal National Independent Student UnionRevolutionary, demanding an apex court order to ensure free education to all.

    “A directive is hereby issued in the name of the defendant, the government authorities, to ensure free education through all the schools except those operating under private investment and under private management, as per Article 17 (2) of the constitution and Article 13 (2) (b) of International Covenant of Educational Social and Cultural Right, 1966,” the bench observed.

    As per the School Sector Reform Plan that came into force in 2009, school education has been divided into two categories — basic education (grade I to VIII) and secondary education (grade VIII to XII).As per SSRP, the new secondary education programme will be implemented from 2013, as education up to Grade X only is currently identified as the secondary level education.

    However, the government has been providing incentives to girl students of public and government schools up to Class X.
    Additionally, Dalits, marginalised and people in Karnali zone are also getting free education up to Class XII.
    Stating that the government authorities did not promulgate the Act as required by the constitution even years after the promulgation of the interim constitution, the writ petitioner had sought an apex court intervention.

    The petitioner had also accused the political parties of not translating their promises — to provide free education to
    all — into action. Lekhnath Paudel, Assistant Spokesperson at the Ministry of Education, termed the SC verdict praiseworthy. However, Paudel said the ministry was planning to implement free education, but it had not been able to do so due to the financial crunch.

    “If National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance allocate sufficient budget, we will implement the verdict from the next academic session,” said Paudel. But he said the ministry was not in a position to estimate the budget to execute the verdict rightnow. “It depends on number of students. Currently, the government has allocated Rs 57.67 billion to MoE. We are also planning to distribute secondary level textbooks free of cost,” said Paudel. As per MoE’s last year June statistics, 790,348 students had enrolled in 4,715 community secondary schools.

    Educationist Bidhyanath Koirala welcomed the verdict but with the caveat how the government will find resources. “Without adequate resources such plans cannot be materialised,” said Koirala.