Society and Infrastructure: Geographical Accessibility and its Effects on School Enrolment in Nepal
Vanneman, Reeve D.
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This research examines the effects of geographical isolation on school enrolment in Nepal using mainly the Nepal Living Standards Survey-II (2003-2004). Nepal, a country with severe road accessibility problems, presents an especially suitable population for this research. Geographical access is measured as the time required by the household to reach the nearest motorable (dirt or paved) road. The accessibility profile that emerges reflects three forms of imbalance in the state-society relations in Nepal. The first imbalance is regional. The second imbalance is socio-economic reflected mainly in higher concentrations of poverty and illiteracy in inaccessible areas. The third imbalance is the state's inability to cater essential services for the people there. Stepwise regressions of the NLSS-II cross sectional data show that isolated children are less likely to be enrolled in part because they are poorer, have less educated parents and are from disadvantaged caste/ethnic groups. Another important part of the reason is isolated children are served by distant and low quality schools and also lack basic services such as electricity. Among secondary aged children, isolation continues to have an independent effect even after taking into account all other determinants of enrolment. This suggests that isolation operates beyond the socio-economic, familial and institutional disadvantages the children face in getting enrolled in school. Adolescent (but not pre-adolescent) girls are more likely to be impacted by inaccessibility than boys. There is no evidence that inaccessibility operates differentially amongst the poor and the non-poor in sending children to school. Analyses of the NLSS panel data reveals that improvements in accessibility improves the chance of the children to continue being enrolled in school, but the remoteness they lived through in their childhood also affects such chances in later years. 'Physical' networks in the form of roads have the potential to enhance social networks and the political voice of isolated households, which in turn enables them to value and demand education for their children. Sociology of roads is a field that needs to be expanded to get a better insight on the social changes that are associated with the building of roads.