Education In Nepal
Education is the most crucial part for the development of an individual's growth. It plays a significant role and has a great impact on societal as well as economic development of the country. It is regarded as a legal right of every child to build their future. But yet it remains a privilege to many. UNESCO data shows that 258 million children and youth were out of school for the school year ending in 2018. Of that total, more than 129 million were girls and 58 million were of primary school age. Among those fortunate to have access to education, on the other hand, more than 617 million children and adolescents do not have minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.
Over the past few years, Nepal has remarkably progressed in the field of education. According to UNICEF- “The net enrollment rate in primary schools has grown to 97 percent.” Despite the fact that the educational system is constantly growing in the country, a number of the children are still deprived from education due to the poverty, gender disparity, societal norms and geographical remoteness.
Challenges in the Education Sector
Education sector has become a priority for the government due to the rising level of public investment in education over the past decade. It has received the largest share of the government’s budget in recent years as compared to any other sector. Even though we can notice the great changes in the learning opportunities for the children and the adults, the quality of the education is relatively low due to the insufficiently prepared teachers, the lack of adequate and appropriate learning materials, secondary school completion rates as well as insufficient support at the homes are some of the factors that prevent many children from developing foundational skills for their life. Furthermore, due to the commercialization of the education sector today, children who lack the financial means to attend school fall behind in terms of access to education.
Government has funded many schools and projects to increase the reach of education to all the children in need. Among them Shree Sitapaila Secondary School located in the Nagarjun municipality is one of the schools funded by the Nepal government. It provides education with minimal fees to a total of 700 students from kindergarten to grade 12. Adopting the mantra, “None left behind the enlightenment of education”, with limited budget, the school seeks to provide technical skills to interested students who can excel in electrical engineering right after completing high school.
Rahat- Supporting Education through Collaboration
With a mission to support needy students, team Rahat collaborated with Shree Sitapaila Secondary School (Government School), Nepal Red Cross SubChapter Sitapaila and the local vendor to distribute the stationery and learning materials. Rumsan has been conducting these programs in various parts of the country since its inception to support the people of underprivileged and marginalized communities along with the use of digital platform, Rahat for providing educational materials to underprivileged students with ease. Rahat has so far completed its 18th project with great success by recently distributing stationery items to 50 underprivileged students at Shree Sitapaila Secondary School.
Rahat team members conducted a need assessment with the school admin which led to a conclusion that it’d be better to distribute vouchers than cash to students as vouchers can be better utilized by the students for their educational purpose and it doesn’t require the presence of a guardian. Since school is the starting point to identify beneficiaries in need of school supplies, beneficiaries were selected by the headteacher who knew them the best. The social mobilizers were given 1-day training on how to use the applications. Additional tutorial videos and user manual of the process were also provided.
Rahat platform includes an agency dashboard, a digital wallet, a vendor app, and a QR code/SMS-based token redemption mechanism. The Agency Dashboard was utilized by the NRCS Subchapter , Sitapaila to bulk upload recipients' mobile numbers and onboard vendor. After issuing tokens in bulk, all registered students received an SMS instructing them to pick up stationery from the chosen store close to the school. Students visited the store at their convenience, and the vendor entered their mobile numbers and scanned the QR cards using the native vendor app. After entering the number, the student received an OTP number in their phone, which the vendor then used to confirm the recipient in the app. In this manner, the relief products are only delivered to registered numbers and beneficiaries. Overall, Rahat successfully managed to provide stationery items worth to each of the 50 selected students with ease to the time availability of beneficiaries.
Rahat- as a Solution
According to Mr. Ishwor Balami, President of Nepal Red Cross Subchapter Sitapaila, the major challenge he has faced over his 30-years of involvement in social work, is the lengthy process of deploying human resources to the field for monitoring and evaluation which adds up cost and time. He remarks that trust needs to be built with agencies, volunteers, local bodies over time and paperwork is required to record all the transactions. Overall, this makes aid distribution process time-consuming and causes delay in providing help to people desperately in need.
Rahat can be a solution for all these problems as it is a digital Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) management system developed to provide local solutions to the vulnerable community with transactions that are secured, financially inclusive and can be monitored real-time by the aid agencies.
Rahat system is built in a simple and inclusive manner where the recipient receives instructions in their local language through SMS sent to their mobile phones - either feature or smartphones, to collect cash/relief items from a nearby vendor. Furthermore, in order for the program to be effective and result-oriented, the Rahat team needs to be connected to each relevant team and stakeholders for proper collaboration. This is not a one-off in-kind donation but should be continuously provided to the students at the beginning of the school year so that they can continue studying and do not need to work whilst studying.