One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted by world leaders for the 2030 Agenda, SDG 4 demands “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Lifelong learning is relevant for both developed and developing countries. In the Nepali context, there is need to orient ourselves to look beyond basic literacy skills and move towards lifelong learning for the people above 60.
The constitution of Nepal (2015), Part -3, Fundamental Rights and duties, Article 31, Right relating to education states that:
Nepal has many policies and programmes related to implementation of above rights enshrined in the constitution which include:
1) Non Formal Education Policy (2007)
2) Functional adult education program (UNESCO, 2006)
3) The literacy/non-formal education policy framework (UNESCO, 2006)
4) Community School Support Project (2003–2008),
5) Education for All Programs (2004–2009)
6) Family Literacy Program 2013
7) School Sector Development Plan, SSDP (2016/17-2022/23)
It is worth noting that none of the above policies and programmes specifically mentions or has provision for education, training, life-long learning and capacity building of older people of 60+ age.
Illiteracy rate among 14+ age Nepali population in 1952 was 90% for male and 99.4% for female (Census 1952-54). Nepal’s population of about 27 million has literacy rate of 65.9%, 70.1% for male and 57.4% for female (CBS 2011). This low literacy reflects the traditional social taboo on girl’s education and limited academic institutions before 1960s. This situation changed fast leaving some behind to suffer illiteracy in the first half of 21st Century, particularly women. It is common to expect above 90 percent illiteracy among 60+ women of today. The literacy among 60+ male is also very low. In spite strong law, policies and projects, there is no any government supported educational programmer for 60+ people in Nepal.
A majority of older people in Nepal depend upon agriculture and are living in poverty. Most of the elderly suffer from illiteracy, poor health and nutrition, low social status, discrimination and limitation on mobility. Because of poverty, they enter into old age in a poor state of health without any saving or material assets. They lack income to fulfill their basic needs such as food, clothes, shelter, health care, and safe drinking water. Gender inequality and discrimination against women is common social phenomenon that makes elderly widows suffer the most.
The government does not have any program related to quality education, training, life-long learning, and capacity building for the elderly. Most of the people and development worker are not even aware about the quality education, training, life-long learning, and capacity building for the elderly which is the main challenge in the face of ever increasing population of elderly. Most of the organizations in Nepal that are working with/for the elderly are charity oriented. Most of these charity organizations are busy with programmes like providing food for one day and providing clothes for needy elderly. Beside these they are not aware about need of education, training and capacity building and other rights of elderly. The international organization like UN/UNESCO also do not include funds/programmes aimed at quality education, training, life-long learning, and capacity building for the elderly.
Government has not taken any steps to ensure that education, training, life-long learning, and capacity building services are available and accessible to all older persons, adapted to their needs, suited to their preferences and motivations, and of high quality.
Some NGOs like Ageing Nepal are trying to inculcate the value of literacy/education for the elderly since 2016. This is a new concept for Nepali society which is very traditional in nature. Some of the activities that Ageing Nepal is involved in limited scale include:
1) Advocacy and campaigning for older people’s right to education
2) Developing Nepal’s own text-book specially designed for elder learners and running classes in selected communities within Kathmandu on a pilot basis
3) Orientation and training on ageing program for the local representative, journalist and youth in both remote and urban parts of Nepal
4) Research and publication. Web sites: (www.ageingnepal.org)
Similarly, Saar Nepal is another Kathmandu based NGO that has taken some steps in lifelong education to the elderly. Saar Nepal runs three types of programmes at a very limited scale, they include: Non formal education (using text-book commonly used for adult-education), Computer and mobile phone education, In-house library, training in income generation, skill development and capacity building to the elderly. Capacity of Saar and number of people served through its programmes are extremely limited. Web sites (www.saarnepal.org)
Other than two NGOs named Ageing Nepal and Saar, nether the government nor other I/NGO is known to run literacy/education programme focused on 60+ aged people. In case of Ageing Nepal, two of the Basic Literacy Programmes are already handed over to local (smallest unit of government administration at Ward level) government for their continuity at the local level.
Since, most of the government and private organizations have not shown any interest in this subject, no such kind of survey has been done yet.
Age is one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination in relation to education in older age. There are strong rights on education, different type of policies and programmes, but not any programme is designed specifically focused on elderly. No any organization call elderly in education, training and capacity building.
As literacy/education for elderly is a new concept for Nepali society in general, there is not any mechanism already in place for enabling older person to exercise their right to education, training, lifelong learning and capacity building. Therefore, there is need to build public awareness and pressurize government to come with programmes to implement the right to education of older people.