Seminar on The Role
of Youth in Civic Education
Organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
20 March 2007, Charikot
Charikot was the second venue for this
year's seminar series on The Role of Youth in Civic Education.
Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies has been organizing the
series of discussion on civic education in different parts of
the country to seek feedback on a book that it has prepared on
the subject for school students. NEFAS had sought a window of
relative quiet to continue its programmes by organizing the seminar
in the midst of a very politically active time in the country.
When it found one, it immediately set out from the capital to
initiate its task. But once there, the usually docile business
sector came out in the street to protest the manhandling of their
lot. The protest took everyone by surprise. The NEFAS team was
in Charikot then and it looked like it would be stuck there for
some days. But quickly the passions died down and road traffic
was allowed to resume. Although this did ease the concerns of
the NEFAS team, it did little to bring the participants, particularly
those who had to travel some distance to the seminar venue, for
The result was that the seminar hall was not
crowded as expected. Still, the lessening of numbers did not
mean that it hampered the required gender mix. The seminar in
Charikot followed the conventional format where NEFAS first
introduced itself and the theme of the discussion. This was
followed by Shivaraj Dahal's presentation after which Prof.
Gunanidhi Sharma provided some economic inputs to allow the
participants to get a more holistic picture of the current status
of youth and the possible alternatives. The seminar was chaired
by Dr. Pradip Manandhar, Chairman, Tribhuvan M. Campus, Charikot.
Ananda Srestha gave a brief introduction of
NEFAS activities and the rationale behind them saying that the
main focus of the organization was academic and that the seminar
being held was part of an ongoing series of discussions being
held in different parts of the country. He asked the participants
to be forthcoming in making comments so that they could be incorporated
in the updated version of the book on civic education.
During Shivaraj Dahal's presentation that
followed, the author of the paper on The Role of Youth in Civic
Education described the state of the young generation in public
life. He listed the plight of the youth from absence of motivation
to the rapid muscle and brain drain sapping the country of its
vitality. For a turnaround, they must be infused with civic
education so that their participation in every walk of life
can be positive for the rest of the country.
Prof. Gunanidhi Sharma's presentation concentrated
on the economic dimension of the problems and solutions that
Dahal's thesis presented. Prof. Sharma said that focus on the
diversity that Nepal possess is not positive as everyone seems
to be looking at the negative aspects that such diversity presents.
He said that the diversity is a resource which very few other
countries have. It must be used for the benefit of the nation,
During the floor discussions commentators
talked more about the education system in general rather than
solely focusing on civic education. They complained about the
poor conditions that exist-from inconsistencies in the curricula
to the political challenges facing the education system as a
whole. Even the approach to education is different among political
parties, they said. Some of the participants, like in many other
past discussions, raised the issue of moral education and its
necessity in the Nepalese context. The Charikot discussions
did not dwell on the political issues that affected the day,
like it happens almost invariably in seminars.
After some of the queries dealing with the
presentations were answered by Dahal and Prof. Sharma, the chairperson
of the discussion, Dr. Pradip Manandhar, made his concluding
remarks saying that the transition times of the day faces huge
challenges, but that a kind of general deviation from their
purpose was observed among the youth. He said that civic education
could give them that necessary direction to follow the right
path. Before closing the discussion, he thanked NEFAS for bringing
the discussion to Charikot.
Ananda Srestha: NEFAS has been involved
in carrying out research and holding discourses on academic
aspects of issues. This is part of our discussion series on
democracy. We have been to over 40 places in the country creating
awareness about civic education and democracy. Our focus is
to have civic education as part of the school curriculum and
the discussions have been contributing to the development of
a textbook on the subject. These discussions have also been
acting as feedback for regularly updating of the book.
Publication is our ultimate goal, as a means
to contribute to the academic sector. Please contribute you
ideas in this effort of ours.
Shivaraj Dahal: The working papers
in the seminar series have been included in the book that we
prepared. The one I am presenting is on the role of youth in
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
Gunanidhi Sharma: The diversity that
Nepal possesses is a national resource. But today's Nepal appears
to be misled. We see dissatisfaction and dissent taking over
the traditional tolerance we have so far had. Our desire is
to restructure- the traditional institutions towards building
a new Nepal.
The paper presented by Shivaraj Dahal tries
to encompass the sentiments necessary to build the new state
structure and to show the direction towards progress. The role
of youth in this project is highlighted in the paper. We know
the role of youth in history, not only in Nepal but also in
Indian independence or, even globally, during the Second World
Although the definition of youth could be
a matter of debate, as an economist I would say that economic
viability defines youth. If you are economically active with
the capacity to take the country towards prosperity, then you
belong to the youth category.
We see that the various changes in Nepal had
been the result of the energy provided by the youth to press
the leadership to move towards change. Even today, remittances
are being provided by the youth to prop up the ailing economy.
In spite of all this, we see that we are not
actually providing them the opportunity to do more. Their desire
is to build a society that is mobile, technologically advanced
and make the traditions pay off by making the necessary modification.
If they do not have the required space to do so, their desire
is not fulfilled.
Today, they are looking for change in the
traditional structures to make them more decentralized. In designing
a state restructure, inclusiveness, representation and participation
are a must regarding all the natural resources. All the resources
must have the opportunity to participate in national development,
in accordance with the concept of right to development.
But this should not lead to adversely affecting
national sovereignty. In development policies, the urban-centric
attitudes regarding planning and programming must be deconstructed
to making it more equitably distributed.
And, until there is economic redistribution
to suit social justice, there is going to be political dissent
that could lead to disintegration as was shown by the Madhesi
agitation in recent times. But politics plays the leadership
role in making all this come about.
The dissent today is taking the ethnic and
caste dimensions which is not a long-term and viable way of
restructuring. This leaves those already out of the caste and
ethnic system like inter-caste marriages out of the state equation.
Rakesh Shrestha: Regarding
local management, we see that hydropower is under the control
of the hydro ministry and the related businessmen. Local towns
exercise authority over the utilization over the sands on the
river banks while tourism ministry handles rafting and other
water sport on the river. Now, when the whole river is under
the control of the businessman, how do the youth play their
Deep Shanker Chaulagain: The young
generation is being enslaved because of the absence of intellectual
property. The foreign education system that we have adopted
does not meet our needs. We know you want change in the system.
You also talked of traditional rights. We
know that local people here are living in the dark in spite
of a lot of hydropower being produced here. Our young people
here should make the appropriate noise.
Gita Shivakoti: Students think only
of the education system as a means to acquire a license. They
appear to be losing their respect for tradition and moving away
towards wrong behaviour. I think they should be given some moral
education. The situation is so bad that the trends we see in
their behaviour is frightening.
Kalika Pathak: Regarding the curriculum,
we have shortcomings which have resulted in the lacuna that
Gitaji talks about. There was a time we did not have civic education,
and it seems to have resurfaced today.
This is also related with politics. We hear
that there are those with political orientations who do not
believe in this kind of education at all, blaming it for being
of the bourgeois variety. We need more people who can think
before drawing curriculum plans.
On the one hand, we have not been able to
employ those we have educated and on the other, they are being
led towards rebellion. The state is specializing in acting only
when it is too late. This has given us a feeling that the conflict
is being perpetuated deliberately. All these are pushing the
younger generation to desperate means like going abroad for
We have not made the local people aware of
the need to have their local resources managed locally. We talk
about giving them some concessions and something they have acquired
it as their right.
The language in the paper needs to be streamlined.
Kiran Lama: Ours is a poor country
but at the same time we have been a member of the WTO. There
are also those against the WTO? Please comment.
Deep Shanker Chaulagain: The education
system we have does not teach students to come out with the
right solutions when we are faced with problems. Even the curriculum
contents are full of mistakes. Civic education must be given
Shivaraj Dahal's reply
A seminar in 1996 led to the call by participants for inclusion
of contemporary issues in school curriculum. But when the subject
was introduced, mistakes were made, like teaching the wrong
topics thus resulting in the failure of most students during
We know of countries with diamonds living
in the most squalid conditions while those like Japan, without
natural resources, are prosperous.
The book that we have contains several papers
appearing as separate chapters. They deal with issues related
with the curriculum and deal with the issues raised here. The
presentation I made is only on the role of civic education.
We are developing a militant culture among
political workers and teaching intolerance. We teach them how
to displace the other for our own greed. Civic education would
help them to behave better. This is also an exercise in socialization
that is helpful for the society.
The issues related with civic education are
political in nature. And, we have bad politics that has been
playing havoc with all sectors. Politics has been given a bad
name. Industries are being marginalized and imports are being
given a boost. If we can strengthen democracy we can act according
to our needs.
There is a difference between civic and moral
education. Civics is concerned with contemporary issues while
moral education deals with ideals.
Babu Kaji: You talk of more people
leaving abroad for work today than in the Panchayat years. This
would have other meanings as well.
You also talked of one teacher working in
many colleges. Do you not want them to work to their capacity?
Gunanidhi Sharma: This has to do with
the distribution of opportunity among people. Few people are
trying to monopolize the few available job vacancies. This is
the trend that needs to be corrected.
Also regarding local resources, the centre makes the decision
at the cost of the local settlements. Hydro resources are sold
to foreign power companies, robbing at times even the drinking
water rights of the locals. Such decisions must be decentralized.
Since we are restructuring the state these
sentiments will be incorporated. Nobody can stop this process
Regarding the WTO, we wanted membership for
Nepal for the sake of national economy, while others did not.
Whether it is investment, or production, there must be national
priority. But people have opposed us. We do not need change
that destroys and disintegrates the nation. The WTO membership
does benefit us from the perspective of technology as we need
new technology. We need the partnership with the world community
for that. The membership with the World Bank and IMF gives us
room to demand the rights available to members. But instead
there are those who think it is a begging bowl for them.
Also, we need the WTO to diversify our trade.
Babu Kaji: You also blame politicians
for not having education. I do not believe that to be all true.
We also see the academic people who change colours like anything.
The issues must be analyzed further.
Shivaraj Dahal: I agree with you 100
per cent. Even doctors do not carry out the duty they are supposed
to do. So are teachers. We must give them civic education. This
problem permeates to the grassroots.
There is political transition taking place. There is social
deviation. And the paper tries to incorporate many issues. It
may not include everything that we want; this is not possible
The civics we studied before disappeared in
later years. This resulted in deviations in every sector.
Today we talk of rights. Civics taught us
to acquire both rights and duties. This involves some thinking.
It was the absence of such education that has resulted in dissent
and dissatisfaction resulting in the conflicts that we see today.
Civic education makes us less dependent on
others and more responsible for our own actions.
The youth has not been able to contribute
its potential. The change we needed has not come about in spite
of so much upheaval. All this is the result of our inability
to contribute. And, this is because of the lack of civic education.
Revolution will not come about through speech,
but through a revolution within self. Today's Social Studies
has not met the need for civic education. The contribution of
the young generation can only materialize through civic education,
otherwise not. I would like it to be part of the curriculum
at al levels of education.
Shivaraj's vote of thanks.