DB Buda, My Republica Daily, 26 May 2018
With a sudden increase in the number of schools in Jumla, the trend of hiring private teachers has also grown. However, as the schools are not in a position to pay salary of the teachers on their own, they urge for help from the guardians.
And this has put the guardians in dilemma. Neither can they discourage schools to hire private teachers, nor do they have any viable option to provide extra support to the schools. Amid the challenge of sustainability of such teachers, the guardians have begun to look for viable ways to pay for the teachers.
A school in Patarasi Rural Municipality-7 has set an example in this regard. Maharudra Adharbhut Bidhyalaya of Patmara village has hired double the number of private teachers than the government set quota. The school, with support from parents, has started potato farming to gather resources to pay the teachers.
“We have started potato farming in around five ropanis of land. This has become possible due to the support and initiation of the guardians,” said the school Principal Chudaraj Neupane. “We earn at least Rs 200,000 from potato farming. This has been quite helpful to pay the teachers,” he added.
The location is considered quite good for potato farming. In the long run, the school hopes to expand the business. “We would have gone for other kind of farming, but everyone suggested for potato farming. This soil is considered best for potato farming and so far we are doing pretty good,” shared Neupane. “This has become our main source of income,” he added.
It is not just the guardians or elders who engage in farming. According to Neupane, students contribute their labor and time for farming every Saturday. “It’s a joint work, a joint project,” he said. “Our students understand that they are working in farm to grow potato because they have to sell it in order to pay their teachers. Or else, the school cannot afford to have private teachers,” he elaborated.
Working in fields actually helps students in many ways, according to the principal. They understand the value of physical work, dedication and responsibility. They learn a lot, he noted.
“I have personally felt that students become academically active when they are engaged in such agricultural works. It develops love for work, dedication and a sense of responsibility,” Neupane said. “And it becomes even exiting when students and teachers work hand in hand. It makes their relationship harmonious,” he added.
Locals excited over potato farming
Potatoes produced here are sold for Rs 30 per kg in the market. According to Neupane, sometimes the school takes them to the market and sometimes traders even come to their doorstep to collect potatoes.
Potato farming is what other locals are also increasingly engazed in. Those who do not contribute to the farming donate money to the school, Neupane informed. “Many parents are engaged in potato farming these days, and that way, they have become able to donate to us,” he said.
Potato has fascinated locals to such an extent that they are thinking of expanding the business by leaps and bounds. Neupane said that the locals are planning to make potato chips and other items of potato.
“We do not want to limit potato farming just to pay for the teachers. If possible, we are going to expand it further and make it a real source of income to run the school and do other social works,” he maintained. He added that the school has planned to train students to make several items of potato.
Meanwhile, the guardians say that they will collectively provide more land to the school if it keeps doing potato farming in an exemplary way. That way, the school will be self reliant and their children can get better environment, they say.
Many schools in Jumla are in a sorry state as they lack regular source of income. According to Neupane, other schools are trying to find income generating sources and many have already adopted potato farming after ‘learning it from his school’.
“Our school has been an inspiration. Other schools have private teachers, but no source of income to pay their salary. So, in our type of land, farming potato or herbs are the best options,” he said.
Even though the district education office gives permission to open schools, it does not provide the required number of teachers, according to Neupane. So, schools must look for income generating sources on its own.
Meanwhile, a local of Patmara village, Singh Bahadur Budha, stated that the locals are aware and worried about sustainability of private teachers in schools. “They want their kids to go to school where there is enough number of teachers. But they are also aware that they themselves have to take the burden of paying salary to them. So, the locals and schools have started to think of ways to support the system,” he noted. He added that some are doing apple farming and some others are involved in herb farming for this purpose.
There are a total of 160 community schools in Jumla. Mahesh Dutta Devkota, chief of Education Development and Coordination Unit, said that there is no practice of keeping records of private teachers in community schools.