Seminar on The Role
of Youth in Civic Education
Organized by Nepal Foundation
for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
1 April 2007, Trishuli
Trishuli was a completely new venue for
seminars organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies. For
specialized discussion, such as that on the Role of Youth in Civic
Education, new places always bring new ideas with them, but in
many cases, participants usually veer off the main course and
land themselves in heated political debates. But, not in Trishuli.
If there was any trepidation on NEFAS' part about what the outcome
might be, something that happens when you organize functions in
a new place, it was soon quelled by the heady mix of participants.
The specialized nature of the discussion on civic education meant
that teachers of the subject should make up the backbone of commentators.
And, because NEFAS happened to arrive in Trishuli at a time when
several trainings were being held for teachers, all it needed
was to tap this resource. It did so successfully with the help
of the local contact. In fact, the number of teachers completely
overwhelmed the other participants during the floor discussion.
The seminar began with introductory remarks
about NEFAS activities and the topic of discussion followed
by presentations on The Role of Youth in Civic Education by
Shivaraj Dahal and a second presentation by Prof. Ram Kumar
Dahal on the political issues that the young generation must
make themselves aware, particularly during these changing times.
This was followed by floor discussion and the clarification
by the authors. The seminar was chaired by Pushpa Raj Lohani
of the local branch of the Buddhijibi Parashid.
NEFAS Executive Director Ananda Srestha made
a brief presentation to introduce the theme of the discussion
to the participants. He said that the objective of the seminar
was to provide sustenance to democracy by energizing the youth
to participate in the process so that they can make positive
contributions. He asked the participants to contribute by providing
feedback to the presentations being made so that the paper can
be updated to reflect new ideas as well.
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation dealt with the
tendencies among the present day youth and the need to direct
them towards making positive contributions to the society at
large. He described the negative attitudes prevailing in the
wider political space regarding youth and suggested that the
new generation be given the responsibility they deserve by creating
the requisite awareness.
During his presentation, Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal
took up several political topics that are being debated today-constituent
assembly and its role, inclusiveness, federal rule and the like-and
explained the need to be aware about the issues before deciding
on the course that the nation should take.
The floor discussion brought forth some comments
that were valuable to any civic education teacher. As said earlier,
it was largely a gathering of teachers, except several political
activists, they wanted to know the methodology of providing
civic education-- how we do it and what it really is. What should
be the topic to be picked up by civic education? What about
moral education? And, what should be the actual age of the student
to impart civic education on him or her? This, they said, was
an important topic as Nepal is about to making long-term decisions
about which very few people know.
After the replies were furnished by the presenters,
Chairperson Pushpa Raj Lohani concluded the seminar by saying:
Most of us are teachers here, and a few more political activists
and students would have been better for the discussion.
Secondly, the education system in Nepal has a lot to be desired.
We raised some of those issues today. Civic education would
be a welcome change in the changed context. The youth would
then act more maturely and more responsibly.
Chair: Pushpa Raj Lohani [Chairperson,
Buddijibi Parishad, Nuwakot]
Ananda Srestha's welcome address:
NEFAS has academic objectives. Its programmes are geared towards
publication of the outcomes of activities like seminars and
We have been going around the country, to
different parts, to hold the seminar series on the role of youth
in civic education. The paper that Shivaraj Dahal will present
today is not a complete work and needs your feedback to make
Ever since multiparty democracy was restored
in the country in 1991, we have felt that democratic culture
has not developed the way it should have. We felt that it was
the absence of participation of youth in public life for this
lapse. They should be involved in such a manner so that it gives
politics the right direction. This seminar would like to contribute
its part in making them aware of their duties.
Today's youth have been afflicted by frustration
resulting in brain and muscle drain. If we can make them aware
of their responsibilities, they could reverse the trend to contribute
to building the nation and democracy.
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation: Shivaraj
Dahal has talked about the kind of political education to be
provided to the youth. We see that we have ignored their need
for such education after 1991. All the professionals are forcefully
retired by politicians when they reach 65, except themselves.
In fact, without youth energy, not much headway can be made
in any sector, not to mention politics. We see that the older
generation is not providing space for their political development.
They themselves have occupied that space.
Regarding loktantra that we have today, political
scientists say that democracy is government by the majority.
But our system has ignored the voice of the minority thus leading
to protest voices in many areas. The result is alienation and
the following rebellion. We see that happening at the present.
If we do not rectify the problems, we do not know what will
happen. People are already talking about destroying the little
that we have especially if they cannot have access to it.
Inclusive democracy should therefore be our
focus. What are the groups to be included? What should the number
of seats in representative bodies like the parliament? Another
aspect is how many groups can we feasibly include? Answering
this will be a challenging task. Hence, we need to understand
that inclusive democracy will not be all-inclusive because of
feasibility or viability. The essence is that although the rule
must be a majoritarian one, the minority should not be ignored.
The agenda of state restructuring we have
today needs to be understood by our youth as well. One is the
debate on the monarchy vs. republicanism, unitary rule vs. federal,
and inclusiveness. Another issue about restructuring the state
is the electoral system- first-past-the-post vs. proportional
representation. This especially so, because all the majority
governments in Nepal have received less than 40 per cent votes.
This means that they have all been minority governments. It
is first-past-the-post that has resulted in this kind of skewed
system. Hence, there are benefits of having proportional representation.
Still another issue is the constituent assembly.
The youth must understand what it is, what it does and why it
is necessary for us. If the youth do not understand its significance,
we will have more problems than those we want to resolve.This
shows how grave the role of youth is.
Ram Bahadur Thapa: No matter how good
ideas the grassroots comes up with we have found that the government
has been ignoring all the advice. The Nepali language needs
protection, but no measures are taken to remedy the situation.
Youths move abroad even if they get less pay than in Nepal.
This means that people are not only motivated not to stay in
the country but the government too does not appear to want to
stop the trend. This will bring in new problems. We may ultimately
become a nation of labourers in the future.
It should be the leadership and formal education
that should make the youth aware, but they are not doing it
at present. There needs to be a collective commitment to resolve
Sudarshan Mainali: The government does
not want to stop foreign employment but rather to promote it.
It is entering into agreements with other countries like Korea.
Binda Dhungana [UML]: What will be
the role of your working paper in governance? Let it not be
futile. When political leaders became disoriented in 052-053,
the youth found politics to be a dirty game rather than something
constructive. For that to happen, parties must restructure.
Otherwise, no matter what political system, if the same persons
rule, no reform will take place.
I agree that there is majority rule and the
minorities remain neglected. I am for proportional representation,
as a UML activist. We have found candidates garnering 18-19
per cent votes being marginalized from positions of power.
Regarding the constituent assembly, peopled
do not know what it is. Even educated people are confused as
there are many opinions being aired at the moment. We have only
two months for the CA polls. Can we make everyone ware about
what it is?
Basu Sapkota [NC-Democratic]: Repeatedly,
we have been betrayed. When an institution or a person feels
threatened he makes compromises, and once he attains position
of strength he betrays. The youth have repeatedly defeated the
forces of regression. Today, we have been able to attract the
world's attention to this trend.
Your objective of making the youth aware is
praiseworthy. Let me tell you that the leaders of the agitation
had not believed that they would achieve such success. It is
time that we consolidate the gains and institutionalize them.
What should be the role of the youth in this consolidation?
The message needs to reach the farthest of corners to make people
aware everywhere. I hope NEFAS takes the programmes to the ilaka
and area levels to carry out the awareness about the constituent
assembly. The objective should be to defeat all conspiracies
against the CA and develop a constituency of youth that defends
a republic democracy and presses for the elections to be held
within the deadline.
Devi Lal Pandit: The real meaning of
civic education is to impart to the youth the concept that they
are a citizen of the nation. This also means that moral education
is the root of education, since this aspect is absent in all
persons, not just youth.
We used to talk of religious tolerance in
the past. Today we want political tolerance among youth.
We are fond of giving speech, but not in acting
the way we preach. The speech should reflect the acts. Youth
should be given an honest education. The urban areas have developed
but the remote areas are deprived of development.
We see a lot of human rights abuses taking
place at these transition times, not just in speeches.
Shanker Karki: I am concerned about
the methodology of providing civic education, how do we do it,
what is it, how do we do it? Who are you, and are you just an
We see the need for this kind of seminar in
villages and settlements. There are a lot of terminologies like
ethnic autonomy and the like. We appear to be moving towards
autonomy rule in for every sub sector. What is our national
identity? How should we present ourselves to the outside world?
How should we define our identity? How do we deal with contradictions
between subnational identities with national identity. What
are the compromises to be made by both the identities? Will
the restructured state be able to deal with these issues. I
see the need for making youth aware on these issues.
The CA will be making decisions on the issues
that have cropped up today. If they make mistakes we may not
have time to repent. Hence awareness is necessary.
Policies have been made and they have failed.
We have the problem of ownership. If the state cannot pacify
the different groups, how will they satisfy them on major issues?
We design trainings for the lowest of posts,
but none for political posts which carry the burden of responsibility
of much larger things liker national interest. This is why we
are frustrated with their activities.
Political culture has never developed in Nepal.
Politicians have been misusing the bureaucracy to make their
selfish ends meet. The result is that we had a 12-year People's
I see that reform is needed at the top, not
from the bottom. Civic education for school students will only
yield after 20 years. The leadership we have today was cultured
with civic education in the past. They need to reform themselves.
They do not allow the younger generation to come forth.
State restructuring should mean political
party restructuring. Today's loktantrik people have drafted
laws to seek property details of bureaucrats and not themselves.
Policies should be framed on the basis of
demand but also to meet the needs of those that are silent.
Dilli Ram Gauli: What should the topics
in civic education? I think the paper does not deal with them
all. Political awareness is the basis on which civic awareness
In my village, two political activists came
for election campaigning. They began fighting with each other
because one person was a third generation supporter of some
party. We believe that we should belong to the same party that
our ancestors belonged to. This is the height of unawareness.
The tendency to ignore minority voice is such
that they will not hear any complaints unless demands are made.
Hence our efforts should be to make people aware about what
to demand and how to do so.
I have educated friends who do not know what government is,
how it is run, how state agencies function, what sovereignty
is. Even if they know what it is, they do not practise them.
Awareness programmes should make them practise these. We know
how to organize demonstrations, but we do not appear to be thinking
about whose rights are being trampled upon when we do so.
You have not dealt well with the role of the
press. Its role is vital for a civilized society and for strengthening
democracy. Politicians are only worried about reports on their
own activities and positive coverage.
Sometimes, our silence also becomes a rights
abuse as it may impact on someone else's rights. This responsibility
must be exercised by people.
Bhola Prasad Kusbaha: There was a lot
of publicity that all the cash stashed in Swiss banks would
be redistributed to the people after 1991. But we have not received
any money so far.
Parties have been engaged in fulfilling narrow
partisan interests. Parties have also affected social life,
especially if two brothers belong to different parties.
In spite of the peace agreement, we still
have a lot of problems. Even ambulances are under attack. Farmers
are not allowed to take their produce to the market.
The king took over after Sher Bahadur Deuba
failed to come up with the solution. Even after his direct rule
ended, we see no respite today. It is only the politicians who
are enjoying the present.
Payscales and facilities must be proportional
to their earnings-- and not more to those who already have it
and less to those who remain deprived
Pushpa Pokhrel: You can introduce civic
education from earlier stage of schooling, by amalgamating the
child psychology necessary with the design of the curriculum.
Shiva Raj Dahals reply
Your suggestions will be incorporated in the
working paper. In 1996 a seminar was held by NEFAS which resulted
in the publication of a book.. This later turned into a book
used by schools in their curricula. We are seeking feedback
to update the book on a regular basis.
We are also exercising democracy by holding
Political party not practising intra-party
democracy cannot promote democracy.
The academicians are the worst of the lot
as instead of guiding politics, they follow the politicians
and justify every move they make.
I agree that there is political militarism.
Civic education is needed to calm this tendency.
Ram Kumar Dahal's reply
We saw foreign policy gaffs on the part of
our politicians. Want them to learn more about governance. We
see that in Denmark they have initiated training for legislators.
Political leaders do need training.
Ananda Srestha: I agree with Shanker
sir. We have an age limit in our profession. But why are politicians
going on strong even at 85-90?
This is a new kind of programme that we have experienced. We
thank NEFAS for that. The seminar has tried to take up the issue
of training our youth on civic education. We saw politics discussed
in the process. Most of us were teachers, but more political
activists and students would have been better.
Secondly, the education system in Nepal has
a lot to be desired. We raised some issues today as well. Civic
education would be a welcome change in the changed context.
The youth would then act more maturely and more responsibly.
I hope the education related comments raised
by the floor will be incorporated in the working paper.
Shivaraj Dahal's vote of thanks.