Indeed, two years after local governments were elected in Nepal’s new federal structure, there has been no palpable improvement in schools here. A report by Rudra Pangeni for the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) indicates that this is not an exception but the rule across the Tarai, as local budgets ignore the social sector and focus on infrastructure. In Rautahat and Sarlahi, several municipalities allocate half their budget to construction, and less than a fifth to education and health combined.
As the country is still figuring out a new working mechanism, it is still not clear what rights and responsibilities each level has, and so real local priorities continue to get overshadowed by more showy instant development work, like roads.
Officials are happy to blame Rautahat’s grinding poverty for its low school performance. Indeed, Uma Primary School serves children from the Chamar community, the lowest of the Dalits according to the traditional social hierarchy, and Muslims. Children from Dalit families often drop out of school to help out at home, and Rautahat’s Muslims who make up 20% of the population mostly send children to madrasahs.
As elsewhere in Nepal, families that can afford it, send their children to private schools. But government schools have reported increased enrolment and improved attendance when the children are provided school bags, scholarships, and lunches. But these programs are sporadic and occur only if NGOs step in.
Read also: Class Struggle, Prakriti Kandel