The Government of Nepal and the World Bank signed a financing agreement for an additional grant of US$10.85 million to the School Sector Development Program (SSDP) to maintain access to basic education and continued learning for children amid the COVID-19 crisis. The government’s SSDP is a sector-wide program supported by IDA credit of US$185 million, together with support from Asian Development Bank, European Union, Finland, Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Japan International Cooperation Agency, Norway, USAID, UNICEF and REACH Multi-Donor Trust Fund administered by the World Bank. The program aims to improve the quality, equitable access, and efficiency of basic and secondary education in Nepal. As per World Bank Nepal, The additional grant from the GPE COVID-19 Accelerated Funds will contribute to the implementation of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s COVID-19 contingency plan to mitigate and respond to the potential impacts of the pandemic on the education sector. The agreement was signed by the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Shreekrishna Nepal on behalf of the Government of Nepal and by the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Mr. Faris Hadad-Zervos..
Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) conducted a national level survey, Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 (NMICS 2019) from May to November 2019. It was a part of sixth-round of the global MICS household program.
NMICS 2019 provides valuable information and the latest evidence on the situation of children and women in Nepal. The survey presents data from an equity perspective by indicating disparities by sex, province, location, education, household wealth, functional limitation and other characteristics.
NMICS 2019 interviewed 12,800 households, of which 14,805 were women aged 15-49, 5,501 were men aged 15-49, 6,658 were mothers/caretakers of children under-five years, and 7,792 mothers/caretakers of children 5-17 years. The survey also performed water quality testing for E. coli and arsenic in 2,536 households.
Survey report says 68.7% population of age group 15-24 years are living happily. Similarly 63.4% population of age group 15-49 years said they are living happily. 97.1% of population use improved source of drinking water. 75.3% of population using improved source of drinking water tested with E. coli contamination, out of this 89.1% was in Karnali Province. Similarly, 90.3% of women and men of age group 15-24 years are able to read a short statement about everyday life. Out of this only 70.6% of women in Province 2 are able to read and write. 89.9% of total population has access to electricity with Karnali Province counting the least, 44.9%.
CBS claims that the findings of the survey will be used to monitor 15th Five Year Development Plan (2076/77-2080/81) of Government of Nepal, establish Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2020. It will also contribute to the voluntary national report (VNR) as well as the UN Secretary-General’s report to UN general assembly on the achievements of Sustainable Development Goals. The survey was conducted with the technical and financial support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nepal.
Covid-19 pandemic has changed the teaching and learning process. Online education and distance learning is evolved as a global education practice due to the COVID pandemic. COVID-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on March 11 2020 by World Health Organization (WHO). Since then many countries announced lock down. Millions of students got locked down at places where they are. Nepal announced full lock down on 24th March. Prior to this, Government of Nepal announced cancellation of Secondary Education Examination (SEE). Board exams of class XI got suspended and class XII is postponed till another notice.
Along with many other sectors education sector is highly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, industries, market and offices re-opened after 90 days lock down, education institutions are still under full shut down. Some private schools started Online Classes using Zoom, Google meet as supportive applications. Similarly, TV/Local Cable stations and radio/FM stations are also teaching students through live sessions as optional teaching method. These methods of teaching through different media are targeted for students of public school in the remote. But teaching students through optional method is a big challenge in our context. There is a large vacuum regarding facilities necessary for online and other distance learning medium. Internet, TV, radio, FM and mobile phones are basic services and devices to initiate online and distance education.
Table below shows percentage distribution of various facilities available in households.
Residence/Facilities Radio Television Computer Internet Telephone Mobile Phone Cable Television
Nepal 51.7 37.1 7.4 3.4 7.5 65.8 19.7
Urban 54.2 61.4 23.9 12.3 22.9 85 54.4
Rural 51.1 31.3 3.4 1.3 3.8 61.2 11.3
Mountain 57.8 15.1 1.4 0.5 2.8 47.7 5.6
Hill 60 37 11.1 5.6 10.2 68.7 26.2
Terai 42 40.3 4.6 1.6 5.5 65.4 15.2
As per the table above only 3.4% of households have access to internet facility. Majority of household with access to internet facility is concentrated in urban centers. However, mobile phones are most common possession now day’s only 65.8% household in Nepal has mobile phones. Out of which 85% are urban and 61.2% are rural. Similarly only 19.7% households have access to cable TV, 7.4% have Computer and 51.7% have access to radio facility. (Population Monograph of Nepal, 2014, Vol III)
There are still many students who do not have access to any form of above mentioned media. Not just in the rural area, even urban dwellers have no access to modern gadgets. These data clarifies that online or distance learning is a big challenge in our context. Next, out of total students enrolled in various levels and school, only 26% students are in institutional schools. Currently, 74% students enrolled to public schools are unable to get proper education due to COVID pandemic. Besides most of the public schools are turned in to quarantine centers.
Child and Family Tracker survey by UNICEF Nepal shows that more than two-thirds of school children are deprived of distance learning. Only three out of 10 children have access to television, radio and Internet-based learning platforms. Among them, only 80 per cent of children use distance learning platforms for their learning activities. Survey further shows that poorer the household, the less likely it is that children can access or will use distance learning. The data shows that only five per cent of children in the poorest households have access to and use distance learning.
To overcome with the problem of education sector during pandemic Nepal government has developed COVID-19 Education Cluster Contingency Plan 2020 (ECCP). Three education-specific scenarios is anticipated by the ECCP in case of extended school closure; (i) up to mid-July, (ii) up to September 2020, and (iii) for the majority or entire duration of the 2020-21 academic year.
Table below developed by ECCP shows a projection of affected children i.e. how many children will be affected or will be in need of support.
|Level||Affected population||Projected increase in drop-out (in the three scenarios) #colspan#||Children with internet access||Children with access to media||Children with no access to media||Children most vulnerable/ at risk|
|3-4 years (ECED/PPE)||973900||77912||194780||292170||128044||474102||280080||129599|
|5-9 years (Grade 1-5)||3672155||282737||706843||1060264||462869||1789717||1078690||468202|
|10-12 years (grade 6-8)||1820943||160700||401751||602626||233073||886417||523772||207304|
|13-14 years (grade 9-10)||1027512||33593||83983||125974||132151||500890||294331||119862|
|15-16 years (grade 11-12)||631536||20237||50593||75889||83257||307143||181086||70123|
Table above shows an alarming picture of school level education. If entire duration of the 2020-21 academic years is lost, number of drop-out students will be more than 2.15 million. Similarly, 8.12 million children will be affected due to school closure. Specially, many girls will discontinue education. In the past few years Nepal has gained a lot of praise for high enrollment of new students, especially girls, to schools. The challenge still remains. COVID-19 pandemic has added more challenge to enrollment of new students to school and dropout rate is projected to increase due to school closure.
Remote Learning Reachability Report published by UNICEF urges governments to prioritize the safe re-opening of schools when they begin easing lockdown restrictions. When reopening is not possible, UNICEF urges governments to incorporate compensatory learning for lost instructional time into school continuity and reopening plans. School opening policies and practices must include expanding access to education, including remote learning, especially for marginalized groups. Education systems must also be adapted and built to withstand future crises.