Why do most politicians send their offspring abroad for education?

Educationalists say the tendency reflects wholly on their utter disregard toward changing the education system of the country to ensure quality education for all.

Photo: Pixabay

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: On November 7, former Prime Minister and Chairman of CPN-UML KP Sharma Oli asked another former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai a question that triggered a new debate in Nepal’s public sphere.

“At a time when we would not get visas to travel to the UK, the children of Baburam Bhattarai would get visas,” said Oli while addressing a public event. “How would that be possible? How did your children receive education from the UK where one has to spend around half a million rupees per month in expenses?” Oli asked.  “What is the source of income?” How can an underground revolutionary afford such an expensive education for his daughter?” 

Manushi Yami Bhattarai, a youth leader and daughter of Baburam Bhattarai and Hisila Yami, quickly rebuffed Oli. She said that she had gone to the UK with her mother who was studying in the UK on scholarship and she had taken her (Manushi) along because there was no one to take care of her at home. 

Baburam Bhattarai came heavily against Oli for talking nonsense and explained that Manushi, then seven, accompanied her mother (Hisila) to the UK and lived there with her mother for two years (2049-51 BS) before she returned home with her mother (Hisila). He challenged Oli to prove his claim. 

Who studies where is largely a personal matter, and it is everyone’s right to choose which educational institution they want to go to for higher studies, but when it comes to the offspring of political leaders,  where they study and how the funding for their studies is managed often becomes a matter of public scrutiny mainly because Nepal’s public educational institutions have suffered steady erosion in the past decades and current crop of leaders are largely blamed for this situation. Political actors are often accused of abetting educational divide by sending their children abroad for studies, while the vast majority of the Nepalis depend on public institutions which suffer a quality deficit.

A quick informal survey Nepal Live Today carried out for this report showed that nearly every influential political leader of nearly every single political party–including CPN-UML–in Nepal either have their children studying in the US and other Western countries, or they have completed their studies but have not returned to Nepal or they have completed their studies and returned to Nepal and are engaged in politics or other enterprises (we have refrained from mentioning names to respect the privacy of those people).

Political actors are often accused of abetting educational divide by sending their children abroad for studies, while the vast majority of the Nepalis depend on public institutions which suffer a quality deficit.

How moral is it for the political leaders to educate their children abroad while leaving Nepal’s public education institutions in shambles? Why do they choose to educate their children abroad?

For the educationalists, these are serious questions. They argue that politicians sending their children abroad for studies reflects wholly on their utter disregard toward changing the education system for good and ensuring quality education for all. According to them, the reasons why the general people go for abroad studies and why the politicians send their sons and daughters abroad for studies are completely different. The general people may go abroad to study to secure financial stability and for better job opportunities but it is not so for the children of political leaders, they argue. 

“Those top political leaders do not have faith in education plans and policies they themselves make for the country. That’s why they encourage their children to go to a foreign land for further studies,” said educationist Bidya Nath Koirala, former head of the Department of Education at Tribhuvan University.  

“They strongly believe that the education system of this country won’t improve their children’s skills, knowledge, and lifestyle.”

How moral is it for the political leaders to educate their children abroad while leaving Nepal’s public education institutions in shambles? Why do they choose to educate their children abroad?

Another reason why they send their children abroad for further studies, says Koirala, is scholarship offers and quotas that some countries offer to the children of politicians. “This also encourages the political leaders to send their children to study abroad,” added Koirala. “Sending their children for studies in such special quota and scholarship can help the politicians improve their diplomatic relations with those foreign countries.”

Laxman Gnawali, another educationist who is a professor at Kathmandu University, echoes Koirala. 

“The policymakers and political leaders do not have trust in the education system of their own nation. So they send their offspring abroad for study, ” said Gnawali.  

“Nepal is a place where even a headmaster of a public school sends his children to a private school for education. Why would political leaders not send their children abroad?”

Educationalists also believe that if the top politicians start educating their children in public schools and colleges of Nepal, they would be more obliged to develop better education policies and execute them for achieving better outcomes in Nepal. “If they enrolled their offspring in public schools and colleges, they would themselves be encouraged to improve the education system of the whole country,” said Bidya Nath Koirala.  

ncell_ad