Recently, there was an article in a weekly about exploitation of parents and students by different boarding schools. The article concentrates on the unnecessary fees, physical and mental burden on children, unusual courses and, above all, the government’s disregard towards controlling all such anomalies. It, however, does not analyze the circumstances that gave rise to the exploitation it challenges. It also does not speak for teachers who are passing through an uncertainty in these schools and about the need to standardize government schools so that the irregularities can be discouraged.
The truth today is that much of the public interest is already devoted to the uplift of boarding schools. People helped boarding schools flourish overnight while most public schools declined in quality and management. Is the educated mass sufficiently concerned about putting an end to this exploitation by helping public schools regain their former glory? What question do we ask a father who sends his children to an expensive boarding school, not the one where he is a teacher or a headmaster or a member of the executive body? Even people in very high positions responsible for upgrading public schools have hardly bothered to send their children there. One can say that public schools are for the poor, and the private ones for the rich because only rich people can pay the high expenses. This shows that if boarding schools cheat, they cheat those who can afford to be cheated.
One thing that the weekly should have mentioned is the fate of teachers involved in boarding schools. Only a handful of boarding schools have any provision for teachers’ future and their families. Otherwise, majority of teachers and staff of these schools don’t know how long they will be working there. “We cannot guarantee how long we can keep you here. It all depends on how efficient you prove yourself in your work in general, and the number of students in particular,” this is what staff are commonly told in the beginning. However, lack of mutual faith is a very common problem between the staff and school authority. A teacher may leave the school any time, and in the same way the school may show him the door any time. Most boarding schools that cannot satisfy teachers also face the problem of appointing new teachers time and again. This surely hampers the quality of teaching, and in a way is an injustice to students. A new trend of keeping teachers’ original certificates as ‘deposit’ has developed in some of these schools, but with results of disbelief and misunderstanding. This sort of bondage has put teachers in a state of total dependence. They hardly get chance to try for other jobs, or have to make a lot of clarifications in case they need their certificates for any use. As such, even teachers are mentally exploited as long as they work in a boarding school. The government does not seem interested in their problems. There is neither provision for a uniform salary structure nor process for permanence. Arranging provident fund is also unheard of.
Just a casual inspection of some poorly run schools may reveal a lot of irregularities. We can meet more than a couple of staff related to the founder, each trying to prove himself superior and domineering. Investing in facilities to students, as promised, may be of tertiary importance. Many founders take a certain amount as salary every month although they do not work regularly or take any class. Some founders appear only annually in order to fix the salary of the staff. The Principal, being the chief of the administration, cannot exercise proper control over financial matters if he is not the founder himself. He even cannot make reforms as per the needs of the school. He is between teachers, students and founder(s), trying hard to satisfy others at the cost of his own satisfaction. He often loses faith of teachers and students because of his inability to act decisively for proper coordination that is required for amicable management of a school.
If, however, exploitation is the main problem, the blame should go to those who play with the future of children doing business in the name of education, and those who exploit teachers and other staff. Many boarding schools have contributed a lot to uplift education in Nepal. Many of them are producing competent work force, and have provided reliable employment to thousands of educated people. Some of them are run by experienced people and are concerned about quality. This obviously is a commendable service to the nation. In fact, the concept of running private schools is not bad in itself. Initially, they were not meant to harm the status of public schools. But in due course of time, lack of proper government control allowed formidable growth in their numbers at the cost of government schools.
Even today, very rarely are approaches made to test their quality. No strong voice is raised by parents even in cases where anomalies are proved. Boarding schools have been teaching whatever course they like, and changing books as often as is convenient to them. They charge fees to their satisfaction on colorful headings. But, this happens not only because the government is too lenient to impose its regulations, but also because people are too quiet to object. Only repeated complaints will not alter the situation. There is need for a strong society of parents and guardians to check all kinds of irregularities. Such a society should also work to reform government schools so that once again public interest will be bestowed on them and children can get education without spending a lot of money. Furthermore, it should force the government to make clear rules about the future of thousands of teachers working in boarding schools.