Degrees of doubt
- Govt must strengthen regulatory bodies to curb corruption in education
Feb 3, 2015-2014 was a rather eventful year for the educational sector. In early January, senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr Govinda KC went on a fast-unto-death protesting government collusion in malpractices related to the granting of affiliation to medical colleges. In April, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) suspended six top officials from Purbanchal University for allegedly receiving bribes, flouting regulations while providing affiliations to colleges, and pocketing funds while procuring goods. The arrest of the Vice-Chancellor of Pokhara University, along with about 20 other officials, followed in October on charges of embezzlement. Then, to make matters worse, in December, questions for the entrance exams for MBBS Biology were leaked hours before the test, bringing focus back to the multi-billion rupee medical education industry.
Last Tuesday, the CIAA released its 24th annual report for the fiscal year 2013/14, which further cements the common knowledge that the educational sector is rife with corruption. Out of the 22,602 complaints registered at the CIAA, 2,900 complaints (13 percent) were related to the Education Ministry. The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development came second, with 1,857 cases (8 percent). Issue-wise, there were 2,469 complaints related to property valuation (11 percent), followed by 1,190 complaints related to fake educational certificates (5 percent).
Corruption in education, according to the CIAA report, starts right at the school-level. District Education Officers, School Inspectors, School Principals along with the Chairpersons of the School Management Committee collude to operate fake schools or ‘jhole bidhyalaya’. Together, they pocket the money set aside by the government for teachers’ salaries and allowances, scholarships for students, administrative expenses, and infrastructure. The CIAA further mentions that employees receive bribes for granting colleges licences from the Higher Secondary Education Council. Then, at the university level, as illustrated by the examples above, there is no accountability whatsoever when it comes to either providing affiliation to colleges, accreditation of academic faculty, or supervision of required infrastructure. Furthermore, so-called permanent teachers of public schools and colleges were found to be moonlighting as instructors and even holding full-time jobs in other academic institutions without approval.
None of these conclusions are new. But that people continue to engage in such malpractices even as the CIAA is arresting people should cause worry. Offenders seem to have little to fear as they are party to the powerful nexus of public authorities, political parties, and the private sector. To remedy this, the first step would be to uproot the current practice of appointing party cadres and supporters to plum academic positions—deans, campus chiefs. This job must be relegated to an independent body with the mandate to hire people based on merit and academic credentials. Until that happens, the government should sincerely work to strengthen other regulatory bodies, like the Institute of Medicine, Higher Secondary Educational Council, and University Grants Commission, among others.
Published: 04-02-2015 09:15