Council: Finding a huge disparity in resource allocation among the schools, the National Council (NC) is going to recommend the government distribute budget based on the remoteness of the school while submitting to revisit free stationery, uniform and shoes in the Central Schools.

The special committee’s report highlighted the prevalence of a huge budget disparity even among the middle secondary schools. For instance a student in Martshala Middle Secondary School (MSS) was allocated only Nu 6,780 in 2014 and Nu 5,758 in 2015 respectively against Nu 28,078 for Khangkhu MSS in 2014 and Nu 30,875 in 2015.

Samdrupjongkhar NC member Jigme Wangchuk said that if the NC didn’t carry out a study, the House would have never known about the appalling disparity in budget allocation in schools. He said Khangkhu MSS’s budget was five times more in 2014 and six times more in 2015 compared to Martshala’s, which is three-day journey from Thimphu.

“If this is how resource allocation is done, it is quite worrying,” Jigme Wangchuk said, adding that the budget disparity could be even larger between Khangkhu MSS and schools located in places more remote than Martshala.

Therefore the members said like in the five-year plans, the school budget should be allocated based on the remoteness of the schools and extent of development.

“If not, under the existing practice of providing more resources to urban schools than those in remoter areas would hinder in providing wholesome education to children in the villages,” Jigme Wangchuk said.

The huge budget disparity between Martshala MSS and Khangkhu MSS, Zhemgang NC member Pema Dakpa said, seemed to be because of a lack of proper guidelines on resource allocation in the education ministry.

“We should submit that the school budget allocation methods in the ministry be strengthened,” he said.

But Mongar NC member Sonam Wangchuk said using the number of students as one of the criteria for resource allocation will not help in fair distribution of budget since the schools in towns have more students than the rural ones. “Remoteness of the schools and extent of development should be given more leverage in resource allocation,” he said.

Sonam Wangchuk also raised resource allocation discrimination between the central and non-central schools. For example, he said in Mongar over Nu 171 million (M) was allocated just for three Central Schools in 2015-2016 while only Nu 81M was provided for  42 non-central schools in the same year.

He said while Central Schools are getting an “inexhaustible and extravagant” supply of food and clothes, students in non-central schools are being neglected. “When we visited the non-central schools, they raised issues of not having budget to even buy a chart paper and marker pens,” Sonam Wangchuk said.

He also pointed out that there is regional inequality in establishment of Central Schools. For instance, in Mongar three Central Schools have been opened in two constituencies, while the third has been ignored.

Thimphu NC member Nima Gyaltshen said the ministry must strive for equitable resource allocation in schools as inequitable resource allocation deprives children from access to equal opportunities. He said even though the children from three gewogs study in Lingzhi school, it still lacks proper infrastructure like classrooms.

Nima Gyaltshen said that let alone playgrounds there isn’t even a proper classroom and students have been studying in tents for the last six years. Because of the cold and wind, students barely study for an hour a day, he said.

“When government can plough in millions in Central Schools, it should focus on how to improve schools in remote areas like Lingzhi by providing basic amenities,” Nima Gyaltshen said.

Wangdue NC member Tashi Dorji expressed concern if investing over Nu 2 billion (B) in Central School would not contravene the provisions of the Constitution since its the current expenditure could exceed the domestic revenue in future. “Thus, if it could be submitted to government to stick to the existing 51 Central Schools as a pilot project and study its viability instead of opening 69 more,” he said.

Dagana NC member Sonam Dorji said the government is wasting resources by providing even basic items in central schools that parents can easily afford. “My teacher friends are saying that the children are playing with notebooks while face towels are being used as foot mats because it comes for free,” Sonam Dorji said.

According to members, instead the government should focus on improving teaching learning materials like providing smart boards since the education system lacks modern teaching learning materials and pedagogy.

Jigme Wangchuk said that since there is mixed reaction on the Central School, the country should be concerned about what could happen if the next government is formed by those against the Central School concept. “There is already the Education City, which the former government established by investing huge sums of money but the incumbent discontinued as illegal,” he said.

Hence, he said the committee should look into proposing a national policy to prevent closure of Central Schools in future and subsequent waste of resources.

Jigmi Rinzin said that since it cannot be predicted what type of government would come to power, the House should recommend adequate policies be put in place. “As mandated in the education blueprint, framing of an education policy should be recommended to protect the Central School policy,” he said.

The recommendations however will be finalised in the committee’s meeting, which will be then again presented in the House for endorsement.

Tempa Wangdi