Mind the gap
- Private Plus Twos should stop charging fees from students recommended for scholarship
Aug 5, 2014-
On Sunday, the All Nepal Independent Student Union-Revolutionary, a student wing of the UCPN (Maoist), padlocked the accounts section of around 40 higher secondary schools. Their demand was free education for students selected and recommended for scholarships by the Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB). Well-known institutes, such as Little Angels, VS Niketan, the National Institute for Sciences and Kathmandu Model College, among others, were found to be charging Rs 12,000 to Rs 30,000 from students who had been recommended for full scholarships. Bowing to pressure, the Higher Secondary Schools’ Association Nepal (Hissan), an umbrella organisation representing higher secondary schools across the country, has now agreed to refund the amount to the concerned students, and the padlocks were subsequently removed. The problem seems to be over. We, however, are not so sure.
A similar agreement had been reached between Hissan, HSEB and various students unions in July last year. Promises had been made to not charge students with scholarships, only to be reneged on. According to the Education Rules 2002, it is mandatory for schools to provide full scholarship to 10 percent of the students enrolled. But as of now, Plus Twos have only been providing scholarships to five percent of their students: three percent recommended by the HSEB and two percent on their own. The HSEB conducts a scholarship test and selects students on the basis of merit, prioritising students who studied in community schools and are from indigenous, marginalised and Dalit communities. Then, it sends the names of these students to different Plus Twos. Some accept these students but charge them money, arguing that they already give scholarships to students based on grades. Others, like the Nepal Army and Nepal Police schools, have even been found to deny them admission. Such problems are most prevalent in the 645 institutes that offer Plus Two courses in the Kathmandu Valley.
Providing scholarships to students according to grades is no excuse to deny free education to those recommended by the HSEB based on various other eligibility criteria. There is value in providing scholarship to students from community schools and those from marginalised communities. Many a time, these students are often the first people in their families, or even communities, to study beyond the tenth grade. Most cannot afford the fees as government investment in Plus Two education is close to nil.
The HSEB must see to it that Hissan abides by the rules. It must immediately ensure that the colleges in question refund the fees as promised. In the long run, the government must expedite the process of restructuring secondary education, integrating 9-12 grades as envisioned by the School Sector Reform Plan. Until that happens, students will continue to be at the mercy of private institutes and in the absence of any government support system, many will be forced to quit school after the tenth grade.
Published: 06-08-2014 09:00