Last week, the news that the prime minister's son Prakash Dahal got drunk and passed out at Dhulikhel Resort made the headlines, overshadowing what PM Puspha Kamal Dahal and Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai were really doing there. They were visiting Dhulikhel to find out about how that town has become a model for education and health. For three hours, the leaders discussed the exemplary Kathmandu University and Dhulikhel Hospital with the people who run them.
Kathmandu University's Vice-chancellor Suresh Raj Sharma was there, and says: "We offered suggestions about education and health. One shouldn't separate private and public. Kathmandu University and Dhulikhel Hospital may be private but they are non-profit public service oriented. The government shouldn't dismiss private organisations just because they are private. We should work together to move ahead."
Dhulikhel hospital's Ram Makaju and Rajendra Koju noted that the leaders hadn't, until then, grasped the concept of community-based activities. Koju said: "The hospital is neither private nor government run. We are community-run and we work for them." He pointed out how a 13-year-old hospital and a 17-year-old university in Dhulikhel have contributed to nation-building.
When the PM questioned which activities the government should give priority to, Sharma advised improving agriculture and setting up polytechnics. "We can't just generate employment," Sharma recalls telling the prime minister, "it needs to be effective and tailored to the needs of the market."
The leaders also heard how Dhulikhel hospital has been treating patients at a minimal cost while students at Kathmandu University also pay a lot less than they would at other colleges.
Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai then asked how Dhulikhel's exemplary community-based education and health system could be replicated. Koju replied that government-run hospitals don't function well and private ones are expensive. "So, we have to implement the concept of community-managed health and education."
Sharma said it made him happy and optimistic to see the leaders in Dhulikhel.