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Child Education




8. Child Education

    a. Teacher Abseentism 

    b. Father’s involvement in Early Childhood Development 

    c. Quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres for all children  


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a. Teacher Abseentism

Background

Quality of education starts with teachers’ “warm body” inside the classroom.  However, one of the issues that media has been raising regularly, as well as UNICEF’s monitoring report is on teachers’ absenteeism, meaning teachers missing classes, and on school opening days.

In October 2009, UNICEF Nepal contracted the Teachers’ Union of Nepal to undertake an assessment of seasonal factors impacting school attendance in selected schools of the Karnali zone in order to produce recommendations on strategies to reduce student and teacher absenteeism in the region. The study collected qualitative and quantitative data through focus group discussion, interactions, structured questionnaires and school attendance registers from respondents including head-teachers, teachers, students, members of School Management Committees (SMCs) and Parent–Teacher Associations (PTAs), parents, community members, District Education Officers, Resource Persons and School Supervisors associated with 18 primary and secondary schools in the districts of Jumla, Humla and Dolpa. 

Problem

The main finding of the study mentioned above was that for schools in the region, approximately 83 schooldays are lost each year through absences linked to seasonal events. This is nearly 38 per cent lower than the government standard of 220 school-days per year. This does not include school-days lost for non-seasonal factors.

Students identified as most likely to be absent were children from poor families, followed by Dalit children, children from households engaged in agriculture or livestock-raising, girls, and children living far from school. The main seasonal factors cited for student absences were yarchagumba collection and harvesting/planting in May and June; temporary settlement away from school during the farming season also in May and June; hay-making in August and September; migration away from the Karnali region to avoid cold weather in December, January and February; and local festivals in February, May, August and November. Non-seasonal factors included family poverty meaning that children had to work to supplement family incomes rather than attend school; lack of parental awareness on the importance of education, especially for girls and children from Dalit families; teacher absenteeism; lack of child-friendly classrooms and teaching–learning practices, including lack of adequate weather protection; school located far from home, making it difficult for some children to reach school especially during adverse weather conditions; and untimely textbook distribution.

Teachers identified as most likely to be absent were those originating from outside the district, followed by those attending training and seminars or involved in higher education, local teachers, and female teachers. The main seasonal factors cited for teacher absences were early departure for vacations in September/October and December; late return after vacations in October/November and February; yarchagumba collection in May and June; involvement in faming activities during May/June, August/September and November; and migration away from the Karnali region to avoid cold weather in December, January and February. The main non-seasonal factors cited for teacher absences were poor management of teachers in schools, with no District Education Officer nor School Management Committee mechanism to regulate teacher absences; participation in teacher training, with no system for providing a substitute during these periods; involvement in secondary occupation such as trade or business, causing teachers to miss classes; and engagement in activities for Teachers’ Union, political parties, or NGOs. 

The main problems highlighted by study respondents in addressing student and teacher absenteeism included the lack of effective mechanism for supervising, monitoring and controlling student and teacher attendance; the lack of adequate teachers’ positions in schools; inaccuracy of school attendance records; inflexibility in the development of individualized school calendars; the inability of School Management Committees to monitor student and teacher attendance in their schools; the lack of accountability for head-teachers and teachers; the lack of safe, weather-protected, child-friendly school facilities and teachers trained in child centered teaching–learning methodologies; and generally low awareness by parents/guardians of the importance of education and the need for regular school attendance.

One of the major recommendations from the study was to develop a strong regulatory and monitoring mechanism.  Furthermore, it states that monitoring and supervision of the education system should be enhanced, with a system of assessment to review performance at each level. The District Education Officer should be empowered to strengthen school monitoring. School Supervisor positions should be filled, and made functional and effective. School Supervisors should be motivated with incentives and rewards, based on their performance. 

Need

While the above recommendation is ideal and will help to strengthen the system, it is necessary to think “out of the box” and bring a paradigm shift in the school monitoring system.  Instead of duty bearers, it is time to seek the alternative and the key stakeholders, which are students, to monitor the school as well as the absenteeism of the teachers.

Students come to school with a thirst for education. However, the continual pattern seen with absent teachers hinders this learning opportunity. To control this issue better, teacher absences should be closely monitored by students to secure their education. Rural areas like the Midwest and Terai districts struggle more from teacher abseentism.

An application that uses technology to build a monitoring system usable by students to report on cases where teachers don’t come to classrooms is needed.

With the applications, students should be allowed to keep record and report on three areas:

1.      No. of days schools open;

2.      No. of days teaching or learning took place;

3.      No. teachers absent and no. of days they are absent and the reasons for their absence 



b. Father’s involvement in Early Childhood Development 

Problem:

Children whose fathers have been involved in their upbringing from the beginning perform better academically, and show better social and emotional development. The parents of Nepal have tremendous knowledge about child rearing, but early stimulation of children is not practiced throughout all families. Traditionally caring for children is seen as the mother’s task in rural areas and parents in the urban context often face the challenge of having to earn a living with strict working hours and high levels of demand, so that spending time with their small children to play and cuddle can be forgotten. Generally fathers tend to understand playing with the young ones as the mother’s role only.

 

Need:

A supporting tool for fathers would be useful, which either gives them the chance to spend time with their children through a common play or raises their awareness on their role in bringing up their children to become happy and successful adults. This tool should provide opportunities to discuss existing practices and finding possible alternatives and address some insecurities that men might face in taking care (bathing, dressing, bringing to bed etc.) and playing with their small children. 

The tool should creatively suggest ways how to increase father’s involvement from the start so that both parents can share the care work and show love and affection to the child in a same manner.

c. Quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres for all children  

Problem:

Early childhood is the time in every person’s life that lays the foundation for growth, learning and development for the future and ninety per cent of the brain development takes place in the first five years. At this time it is extremely important for all children to get enough opportunities to gain knowledge through exploration and interaction with their family members and peers. In Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers, they are provided with opportunities to learn through stories, songs, dance and games based on child-centered learning methods according to their age and interest. In Nepal these centers play an important role in the transition to school, resulting in higher promotion rates at Grade 1 and lower dropout rates later on. Research has shown that children with ECD experience not only have higher literacy and numeracy skills, but also demonstrate enhanced social skills.

In recent years there has been an impressive expansion of ECD in Nepal. The gross enrolment rate has increased rapidly: from 39.4% in 2004 to 72.9% children (73.1% girls, 74.3% boys) in 2011. Data reveals that in the 34,174 ECD centers a total of 1,053,054 children are enrolled (506,731 girls) (MOE, Flash report 2012/13). However, these figures do not provide information on the actual learning situation of children and the quality of services. Field visits have shown that a relatively high number of under- and over-aged children are enrolled and it is also observed that children of grade one and ECD age are learning together in one room (with more than 30 boys and girls around). But children of grade one and ECD age have different requirements and facilitators lack the technical skills and knowledge to address the psychosocial aspects of so many young children at the same time. Combined with resource constraints and poor sanitation facilities there seems to be an overall poor quality of ECD centers in many cases, but no baseline data is available so far.All this is hampering the holistic development of children.

 

Need:

Information on the situation in ECD centers should be collected regularly (twice per school year?) and maintained in a centralized database. This would be needed to monitor the quality of ECD services and to inform further government and UNICEF activities.

Data could be collected on for example:

·         -Name and location of each centre in a district

·         -Type of each ECD centre (school based, community based, private)

·         -Number of schools having separate ECD room

·         -Toilet facilities available

·         -Number, age, sex, ethnicity of all children per center

·         -Number of facilitators per center

·         -Number of ECD centres providing mid-day meal

·         -Children in the centres obtained birth registration

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