With the ever rising population and the resultant congestion in the Kathmandu Valley, it is difficult to find a real proper school where parents can safely send their children. For school is not only a classroom and the teacher, but also the environment where children and the youth can freely (and safely) participate in open extracurricular activities, which include different disciplines of sports. Other such activities consist of debates, elocution and public speaking and also indoor games.
Greater good of community
The main task of education is to make the young students, whether children, youth or the elderly, think and act for the greater good of the community also to ensure that the students remain physically and emotionally strong and healthy. Education is not only reading textbooks, it should make us think what these books teach us and not follow like a herd of sheep, without weighing how much truth there is in what they say and in what context. Though this kind of evaluation is not possible during the student days, the education we receive enables us to be impartially discriminatory in later life.
Not all of us can be like another Albert Einstein, but education, especially in school, must teach us to be curious about everything around us. We may not know the answers, but at least we will be able to distinguish between what is socially and morally right and wrong, even if we are unable to find scientific answers to all our curiosities. And this can only happen when proper education is imparted by those who administer the schools.
The fact is that schools are being run in a dismal manner, and much needs to be done in this regard. The lack of open spaces in most of the schools in the Kathmandu Valley is due in no small measure to the wrong decisions and policies taken by the government. The official and semi-official agencies tend to swallow the little open public spaces that still remain in the valley.
These agencies, including the local governments like the municipalities, seem to turn a blind eye to the people’s need for open space where the people can breathe a little fresh air. Construction of massive structures and shopping malls with the connivance of these authorities in public spaces only harms the beauty of the valley and also neglects the need of the people, young and old, to go out for fresh air.
The Kathmandu Valley has become a haven for migration from the Himalayas, the hills and the Terai, and hence the population of the valley has increased multiple times from what it was in the 1960s, 70s and even 80s. And with the municipalities in the three cities allowing house construction anywhere one likes if you own the land, the open space has shrunk beyond recognition. And with the increase in the population, the number of school-going children has increased to virtually unmanageable numbers. And to cater to the needs of the children, schools have rightly opened up.
Whether rightly or wrongly, many such schools are located in crowded residential areas, and there is little or no possibility that such schools will have playgrounds for students to participate in outdoor games and sports. The big question will remain as to why the government school authorities allow schools to operate in such areas. Are these authorities fully aware of what their policies and decisions mean to the students in the long run?
It is not possible under the present overcrowded circumstances to ensure that all schools can have playgrounds, but it is important that for such schools, alternatives be provided by the government authorities. When such arrangements are made, schools can take their students to these playgrounds two to three times a week, where the students can play and build up the much needed team spirit and camaraderie. Schools located in crowded areas could do this turn by turn. But then, are there open spaces in the city and what is happening to the few that are left?
Some of the most populated cities in the world like London or New York have open spaces where the people can go on walks or go jogging, or play. Like the Central Park in New York or the Hyde Park in London. And the entrance to these parks is free (or at least used to be in the past).
Here in congested Kathmandu, almost all open spaces are being gobbled up with the connivance of the authorities. The Old Bus Park is taking the shape of a towering disaster, and the minister, who should know better, praises the scheme to construct a high rise shopping bazaar there. The bus park, we hear, is being moved to Tundikhel where a partition is already in place.
The Tundikhel, what was once the largest open space in the city, is being constricted day by day, and the army is using parts of it as a dumping yard after dismantling what was once a beautiful Tribhuvan-Chandra Army Hospital.
The same story is being repeated everywhere. So where will the young school students go for outdoor games – the streets? We have the great idea that shopping malls and construction of tall structures will take us to the advanced stage of development just as in developed countries.
May be the time has come for the CIAA to probe into why such decisions are being taken by the authorities that go against the very essence of a healthy city life. Why are shopping malls more important than play grounds for the young people? We cannot ensure a better upbringing for the future generation of Nepalese if we tend to be guided only by a money-minded attitude.