Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
"When there is motion there is friction"

Interview with Minister of Education and Sports Mangal Siddhi Manandhar, a geology professor who has worked at the National Planning Commission. He is a UML MP from Kathmandu.


Budhabar: Do you feel the government is not picking speed?
Mangal Siddhi Manandhar:
The people have complained that the government has not worked according to their wishes and that may be justified. But we are in a transitional phase right now. On one side there is so much confusion, and so many legal hurdles while on the other are the people's expectations. They are demanding action right here right now or threatening to strike. I had to face protests the very first day I entered the ministry. Discussions and homework are necessary when making policy decisions. It is due to these factors that work is being delayed.

Are you getting cooperation?
The extent of cooperation that should be there in the political level is not enough but it is there. The eight point agreement and creation of the interim constitution draft committee are political agreements. However there are problems at the ministerial level. We have not interfered in other ministries but everyone seems interested in the
education ministry.

Are other parties interfering in your ministry?
Let's just say there is a lot of concern and interest. This has made it a little difficult for us to work.

Both Tribhuban and Pokhara University are without leaders now. What is stopping new appointments?
We have not been able to work because others have shown unnecessary concern. It has been more than four months that Pokhara University hasn't had a vice chancellor. TU is facing the same problem. A three-member recommendation committee under the joint vice-chancellor should have been formed but it has not been done. I requested this from the prime minister in writing but why nothing has been done is a matter of conjecture.

Is it possible you will be seen as a failure?
It is not important whether I as a person will succeed or fail, but the future of the students will be affected. Who will take this responsibility? Will the education minister be a failure? No, the whole cabinet will be responsible.

It is said that it's very difficult for ministers to meet the prime minister, that the kitchen cabinet is all powerful. Is this true?
Due to the prime minister's health we don't get to meet and talk very often. I have met him separately during cabinet meetings and informed him of things that need to be done under my ministry.

Have you told him that your work is stalled?
I don't know who advises him, but I certainly feel that he is being advised wrongly. Why isn't he being allowed to decide? If recommendation committees were formed in time there would not be as much confusion as there is. We must give up our narrow - minded thinking to solve the problems in higher education. It affects millions of students.

What changes will you contribute to the education sector as minister?
The gap in education between rich and poor students should end. Education should be provided to all equally. Until and unless we can provide equal education opportunities to everyone there won't be social justice. Without social justice, democracy will never be stable. The present situation where government schools cannot compete with private schools is untenable. Issues of nationalising private schools are being raised but this must not be viewed from one angle. It is not possible right now. This is why the quality of government schools needs to be raised. Equal education and equal opportunities are my main agenda.

Will the education mafia let you do this?
When there is motion there will be friction. But we will push this forward.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)