Mayor Balen Shah: Transforming Kathmandu’s Education Landscape

Balen Shah

Balen Shah is currently serving as the 15th Mayor of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. He has received global recognition after being included in Time magazine’s ‘2023 TIME 100 Next’ list. His inclusion on this list recognizes him as one of the 100 emerging leaders identified by the world-famous publication.

Shah obtained a bachelor’s degree (BE) in civil engineering from Himalayan Whitehouse International College. He also holds a master’s degree (MTech) in structural engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), in Karnataka, India.

Shah announced his candidacy for Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City as an independent candidate and was elected in the local election of 2079 BS by getting a huge number of votes. As he promised that his focus would be on the development of education, sanitation, and waste management along with the availability of water for all, preserving art and culture, increasing tourism, and controlling pollution, he is living up to his promises.

Since then, Shah has made significant changes in the education sector in the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC). KMC’s good decisions towards the education sector have resulted in positive changes in the education sector in KMC.

You may also like this: Sumana Shrestha’s Contribution to Education Reform in One-month Tenure

Balen Shah’s Book Free Friday Initiative

After the appointment of Balen Shah as the Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), a breakthrough initiative called ‘Textbook Free Friday’ has been initiated by the KMC in Nepal that aims to improve student’s practical skills and offer opportunities for extracurricular activities.

The ‘Book Free Friday’ program has been introduced in a total of 56 different community schools within the metropolis. Under this program, the students receive 90 hours of training that is useful in their daily lives. Different areas including, agriculture and urban farming, beauty art and hairstyling, carpentry, culinary art, electrical wiring, stitching, sculpture, mobile and electronic repairs, fashion design, and plumbing are covered during the training.

In addition to academic benefits, students of all grades participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, such as essay writing, music, and poetry recitation, to promote mental and physical growth.

Mayor Balen Shah believes that school is not just a place for studying and rote learning, it is also a place to learn new skills. In the present context of Nepal, a large number of students go abroad for further studies yearly as youths struggle to get a decent job due to either having no skills or even having some skills. So, the metropolis is providing the skills demanded by the market to the students at the secondary level.

The ‘Book Free Friday’ program’s development has been continuously monitored by Balen’s team, ensuring that it is effectively implemented across various schools as this initiative provides students with valuable skills and knowledge that go beyond traditional academic topics, thus promoting their entire growth.

Source: Kathmandu’s ‘Book Free Friday’ Program Empowers Students with Skills and Enthusiasm

Depoliticizing Public Schools

There has always been politics in the public schools of Nepal but Balen Shah believes that the school premises shouldn’t be the place for politics and that they are meant for educational purposes only. So, a decision was made to ban political activities inside school premises by any political party and their sister organization.

The KMC has stated that any individual or group found to be organizing or participating in political activities will face strict actions. The KMC will also take department actions against the Head Teacher of the concerned school if such activities are found in the course of monitoring. It has encouraged school authorities to report any such events and cooperate with the authorities to promote a peaceful and conducive educational environment.

During Ashwin 2080, thousands of public school teachers joined a protest rally in Kathmandu against the new education bill registered at the House of Representatives. As a result, the teaching and learning environment was disrupted nationwide due to the closure of public schools. So KMC’s Mayor Balen Shah warned to dissolve the School Management Committee if they obstruct the teaching-learning process and anyone implicated will face criminal charges.

To protest against the the decision imposed by KMC to ban political activities in schools, the All Nepal National Independent Students Union (Revolutionary), affiliated with the Nepal Communist Party imposed an indefinite lockdown on the Education Department. However, Mayor Balen Shah himself broke the lock, announcing that conducting political activities in schools under the pretext of a party-affiliated organization was a crime.

For more information, please visit these sites: Kathmandu Metropolitan City Issues Warning Against Political Programs in Schools

Private Schools to Adopt Names Reflecting Nepali Culture

Mayor Balen Shah has introduced a rule requiring private schools in the Kathmandu Metropolitan City to put names that reflect Nepali culture. This rule was initiated because there are around 700 private schools inside Kathmandu. Most of them have names similar to those of foreign schools, so they can incur high fees from guardians.

The initiative to adopt Nepali names and avoid misleading qualifiers such as ‘public’, ‘national’, and ‘international’ aims to maintain consistency in school names and logos, adhering to regulations 69 and 70 of the School Education Management Regulations.

With this initiative, school names will reflect Nepali culture, and the practice of charging high fees under the guise of being international schools will come to an end.

Schools have been encouraged to select names based on notable historical figures who have contributed to society and the nation, deities from religious mythology, pilgrimage sites, and natural landmarks.

For additional information, please visit this site: KMC Mayor Balen urges schools to use Nepali names dropping false qualifiers

KMC’s Directives to Private Schools

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has instructed that institutional schools within its area are prohibited from charging admission fees for students advancing to the next grade within the same school to end business in the name of education. Its Education Department has directed schools to limit admission charges for new students to not more than a month’s fee.

Additionally, the KMC issued an order requesting schools not to sell books and stationeries and not to force parents to buy uniforms at specific places as the private schools sold these essential items from the school premises at expensive rates to guardians making huge profits.

You may watch youtube video for details: How BALEN's Policy is changing EDUCATION SYSTEM?

Conclusion

Balen Shah, a current Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), Nepal has implemented several impactful initiatives since his tenure began. Shah’s focus on education, sanitation, waste management, water accessibility, cultural preservation, tourism promotion, and pollution control aligns with his promises to the public. Under his leadership, KMC implemented the ‘Book Free Friday’ program, providing practical skills training and extracurricular activities to students. Furthermore, Shah has initiated efforts to remove political activities from public schools, imposing strict penalties for violations. He has also implemented improvements in private schools, urging the adoption of Nepali cultural names, limiting admission fees, and prohibiting the sale of essential items like books and uniforms at expensive rates, all aimed at improving education quality and fairness in Kathmandu.

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