Seminar on The Role
of Youth in Civic Education
Organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
2 April 2007, Dhunche
The northernmost part of Nepal that Nepal
Foundation for Advanced Studies has reached so far to organize
a seminar in its civic education series has proved to be Dhunche,
headquarters of Rasuwa District. The objective was to collect
varied feedbacks from as varied places in the country as possible
so that the book prepared by NEFAS on civic education could be
updated to suit the changing needs of teachers and students alike.
Two presentations were made by Shivaraj Dahal and Prof. Ram Kumar
Dahal on civic education and political awareness among the youth
respectively before opening the floor for discussion.
This little tourist town, where academic
discussions are a rarity, provided both sides of the divide-the
participants and the organizers-a unique experience to go by.
The participants were not very forthcoming in their comments
as happens in other places, perhaps an insight into the life
of the people in these parts of the country. But this did not
deter the committed ones to talk about the difficulties they
have been facing in the task of educating. The seminar was chaired
by Tir Bahadur Gurung, a teacher in Dhunche.
The seminar kicked off with NEFAS Executive
Director Ananda Srestha welcoming the participants and introducing
his organization's activities and the rationale of the seminar
to the participants. He said that the youth must be able to
make their contribution to public life if democracy is to be
sustained and promoted in the country. It is this that has prompted
NEFAS to embark on the mission of energizing the youth through
civic education, he said, and called on the participants to
make their contribution through active participation.
This was followed by Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
on the Role of Youth in Civic Education. He painted a picture
of the present-day youth and compared it with the potential
that they had. There is a lot that the youth can be made to
contribute, he said and added that by giving them proper education,
this energy in the youth can be unleashed for a better tomorrow.
Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal gave an outline of the
political issues being debated today before moving on to say
that awareness on the issues is a must if you are to participate
in the public life and want to make a difference to the nation
and its people. His presentation dwelt on issues like the electoral
systems prevalent in the world today, the kind of governance
that Nepal could adopt and the need for awareness on such topics
by the ordinary people. These he said are to do with long-term
national scenario and they should be treated with care. Without
proper knowledge of the issues, their adaptability in Nepal
cannot be worked out, he said. And, if they cannot be suitable
adapted, as happens when done without studying the local context
properly, there will be more problems than those we started
During the floor comments, participants thought
that it would have been better to talk about the different kinds
of education systems being debated as well-for example, the
Janabadi education. The issue of the age group that needed civic
education was also debated by participants among themselves.
Some said that smaller age agroups need to be tapped for this
kind of education, given its significance, while others said
that too young a group would mean that they would not understand
the concepts and the issues involved. Another participant came
up with the idea that civic education should be introduced at
the lower levels in schools but followed through steadily and
in greater detail as the age of the student progresses. One
participant went on to suggest the need for an academy on civic
education. A teacher was concerned about the varied topics included
in the civic education curriculum. His question was how to have
teachers teach civic education which consists of so many different
specialized subjects. He suggested that adequate trainings be
organized in different parts of the country for the teachers
of the subject.
The seminar came to a close after the two
presenters furnished replies to the queries raised and Chairperson
Tir Bahadur Gurung made his concluding remarks thanking the
organizers for the rare opportunity to have such fruitful discussion
in the remote town.
Chair: Tir Bahadur Gurung
Ananda Srestha's welcome address: Ours
is an academic organization dealing with research and discussion
which are later published. We carry out these activities not
only in Kathmanmdu but have an aim to reach all districts of
the country. We have already reached 35-40 places. It is in
this process that we are here in Dhunche today.
In spite of the democracy that we have had,
the political activities that we have witnessed and the anarchy
that we are faced with makes us think about what democracy actually
is. Is it because it is a long term process or is it because
something has gone wrong? Our conclusion is that the role of
youth in supporting democracy is lacking. We think that we need
to energize them through civic education.
We have presented a book on the subject which
needs regular updating. Please contribute your part in updating
the book through your feedback to the working paper being presented
today. Our goal is to publish the book like we have done so
many times in the past. The book will be a part of regular curriculum.
We are a non-profit organization and publication is our mainstay.
Shiva Raj Dahal's presentation
Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation
We see in various walks of life that the youth are deprived
of the decision-making role they are entitled to. Even during
the political changes that we have had, in spite of their contribution,
they do not seem to be playing an effective role in deciding
on the changes.
Today's political debates are about federalism
vs. central rule where we see demands for constituencies based
on population. This may create problems for the northern regions.
This has led to conflict, with the issue of regional self-rule
coming up to the fore as well. The northern reaches suffer from
anxiety about a declining population. This brings to the fore
debates on how the lines should be drawn- north to south or
east to west. This puts us into thinking about what federalism
is, and what kind of federalism can be practical in our context.
Debates are needed to come to the right conclusion. For this,
the weaknesses and strengths must be debated. These debates
must be carried out so that the youth can become aware about
these issues for the vital energy to be unleashed in having
and sustaining a proper system.
Similar debates can be held on republicanism
vs. monarchy and the like.
These are issues where people must know what
they have and what they want to have. Awareness programmes are
needed for that to happen. The youth have an important role
as they can contribute the most. If the youth can be allowed
to contribute to making movements a success, or to carry out
successful strikes and bandhs, we can also use their contribution
to doing something good for the society. They must reach the
decision-making circle for that.
The electoral system or the secularism vs.
Hindu identity debates are others which also need to be understood
in the present context by the youth. The need for changes, the
weaknesses and strengths of the electoral systems to be adopted
or even the mixed electoral systems are all matters of debate
that need resolving.
Shiva Raj clarifies the rationale for the
presentation saying that the presentation was made to provoke
some debate so that issues come to the fore which would be useful
to be included in the book on civic education.
Tsoa Tenzing Lama: The topic is proper,
but the choiuce that we have today is between janabadi
education and vocational education. It would be good if you
include the issues in the paper. I think rather than Class 12,
it should be a high school subject.
Chair person Gurung: I want to add that the high schools
can have more detailed civic education. But the lower classes
too need to be introduced to the subject, if it can be contextualized
to their needs. The complex issues can be avoided for them.
Also, a compulsory civic education subject would be better than
Tshang Tempa Tamang: Not just students,
but all the citizens must be imparted with civic education.
I think that some of the subjects, especially regarding the
structures of the state would be helpful for all of us. If the
government sets up a youth academy this can be done.
Only the youth can shoulder the necessary
economic and political manpower burden.
Bhadra Rajbhandari: I think the role
of women needs to be stressed. Especially, their property rights
issues. Please clarify the seasonal activism of NGOs that you
make an issue of.
Shiva Raj's reply: What I mean is that
there is a tendency by women [running NGOs] to exploit the women
themselves. They have also been contributing to the disintegration
of society. We know that the problem of women is genuine, and
that they should begin practicing their preaching at home. Seasonal
means movements are launched only when money arrives. When money
comes to them from the opposite direction, they shut up. This
is the tendency that I am trying to point out. Let me give you
an example. I know of a case where a movement was stopped by
a factory owner regarding pollution.
Shambhu Kumar Dahal: You talk of civic
education, politics, economics, and social movements-all included
in one subject. Which manpower will be involved in teaching
the subject? This is a vast subject for which we may not have
the necessary manpower.
Shivaraj Dahal: In five years, about
500 teachers have been trained in different parts of the country.
Shambhu Kumar Dahal: You may also need
to train the essential manpower.
Bishnu Hari Dhakal: You talk of youth,
but do not raise the issue of the elderly. Do they remain quiet
after they reach their sixties? We see that politics is being
run by the elderly. We see that the contribution and sacrifices
are done by the youth but the decisions are made by the octogenarians.
I understand that you are for the youth to take over. But what
are the technical support necessary and who provides that?
I too feel that the subject should be introduced
at a lower level.
Karsang Temba Tamang: I would like
schools to be set up and taught in the languages spoken in the
Rubina Tamang: You talk of women in
social justice. What kind of women are you talking about? Should
they be taken as one group or should they be differentiated
into different groups?
Shivaraj: I am talking about all those
Shambhu Kumar Dahal: You have raised
issues of awareness, but there are issues related with practice.
But people are backward in their awareness levels in many parts
of the country. It would be good if students can be taken to
such areas to practise what they learn. In other words, a more
practical civic education.
The paper I presented is a summary of all the issues raised
in the book called Contemporary Society.
Let me tell you that we are not involved in
the development of curricula. We have produced good materials
in our publications and those in the education sector felt that
the important issues in our books can be used by them. This
shows that in spite of us not being the authority involved in
education, our contribution ahs been valuable. It is in the
course of our search for material that can be used by others
that we are holding these discussions. Your inputs are part
of this process.
Our goal main is to contribute to the democratic
process and awareness. We would like to contribute our part
to institutionalize and consolidate the assets that Nepalese
Civic education is necessary also to revert
the militant culture being developed by the parties among their
party workers. Only democratic practices can raise tolerance
levels regarding interaction among parties.
Civic education is necessary to develop civic
sense among people.
Over 2.5 million people are outside Nepal,
1.8 million in the Gulf region alone. This show the dependence
on the remittance economy. But again, the British are trying
to retain the Gurkhas in Britain. All this creates problems
as we lose a lot of youth manpower. This is complicating the
problems that we have regarding employment opportunities.
We heard the need for civic education and made suggestions.
We even talked of a youth ministry, the curriculum and even
training of teachers for the subject. The rationale for civic
education appears to be all pervading as it trains people to
live in a society.
We did have a subject called civics during
our school days where we learnt the rights and duties of citizens.
That subject disappeared later on.
Now, we see that Class 11 has the subject
once again. Obviously, the need for the education at lower levels
has also been understood. I wish you success in applying pressure
for that to happen.
Please also talk about janjati women or Dalit
women, not just women in general. I thank you for organizing
the discussion in our place.
Shivaraj's vote of thanks.