Civic Education for the Young Generation
Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
Bhiman, 22 November 2008
Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies chose
Bhiman for another of its one-day seminar on Civic Education for
the Young Generation. The small roadside village boasts of 10+2
classes that teach the Civic Education subject, the clinching
factor while choosing a place to hold the function. This series
of seminars has taken the NEFAS team to different parts of the
country where the subject is being taught or that are contemplating
doing so. The small settlement can be said to be in transition
as there is every possibility that it will grow exponentially
in the near future because of the Bardibas-Banepa Highway that
will soon be complete. Once that happens, it is not just the urban
infrastructure that will see a boom in this part of the country
but will also see a corresponding growth in the number of schools
that will need to be opened to cater to the boom.
The seminar, an outcome of cooperation between
NEFAS and the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, is one of the
backbones of current NEFAS activities. The Bhiman function was
chaired by Ramesh Devkota, chairman of the Janjagriti Campus
Management Committee. NEFAS Executive Director Ananda Srestha
introduced his organization to the participants and explained
the objective of holding the seminar there-i.e. to collect feedback
on the papers being presented so that they can be included in
the publication being planned by NEFAS on the subject of civic
education. Shivaraj Dahal's paper came next where he explains
the negative spiral that the country is heading into because
of absence of public responsibility of public figures and organizations.
He said that this was due to lack of civic education. He prescribes,
in his paper, education for the young about civics as it is
this generation that will be at the helm of affairs in the future.
Another paper was presented by Vedraj Acharya, a political scientist,
who explained the essentials of a democratic system. His presentation
was based on a FES publication called 'Handbook on Democracy'
where the elements of a democracy and the mechanics of the system
are laid down.
During the floor discussions commentators
were keen to share their own experiences regarding the malfunctioning
of democracy in the country and the reasons that they thought
were responsible. Several of them wanted to know about other
political systems, not just the democratic system, while others
were more interested in the terminologies used in Nepal by various
political groups today to denote democracy. Most picked up on
the massive brain and muscle drain taking place in the country
with the younger generation running away to other lands for
lack of opportunities at home. Still others picked up on the
border encroachments taking place on the Nepal-India border,
while others were stressing the need to educate the political
leadership rather than the people about civics and being accountable
to the people. The lively discussions came to an end with Vedraj
Regmi issuing the vote of thanks.
Excerpts of the proceedings
Chair: Ramesh Devkota, Janajagriti
Campus chaiirman of mgmt. committeee
Ananda Srestha's welcome
We have been organizing seminars and publishing
the outcomes ever since the early 90s. Our publications are
being widely used not just in the country but elsewhere in other
parts of the world as well. Our focus is to take these functions
outside Kathmandu and it is in this course that we are here.
This topic, Civic Education for the Young Generation, came into
being over a decade ago and we have been pursuing it ever since.
We have held these functions in different parts of the country
and collecting feedback to enrich the working paper which will
ultimately be published for use of students and others. Please
contribute with your comments and help up us make the paper
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation.
We have been organizing this programme in
different districts and this is the first time we have reached
the ilaka level. NEFAS has been organizing programmes and discussions
on democratization and similar issues. We have lately been holding
discussions on the different dimensions of conflict and its
management. Our objective is to contribute to strengthening
loktantra, to contribute through teaching materials for students
and also to initiate debates on how one can acquire one's rights.
We want to promote goodwill and cooperation among political
forces to make them abandon militancy and begin working on common
grounds on national issues.
Dr Bedraj Acharya on the Handbook on Democracy
The future lies in the hands of the younger
generation. I want to stress two points that Shivraj raised.
First, the educated and technical youth manpower harbours the
idea of leaving Nepal for greener pastures elsewhere as the
first priority. This is how we are losing 1,000-1,500 people
everyday through the Tribhuvan International Airport. 15,000-20,000
people are working in the Gulf region. The Department of Labour
officials say that that the houses that the younger generation
builds in Kathmandu from the remittance they earn, are a misguided
pointer to their earnings. This is false they say. They do not
earn enough to do so. What is actually happening is that they
are building the houses from the proceeds of the property they
sell back in their villages.
Secondly, the about 20,000 youths that we
lost during the conflict years does not appear to have paid
off very well. Today, we see about 500-700 families displaced
from Janakpur area to the Bardibas area. This was not what we
wanted from the political change. We are witnessing a trend
where we are enjoying sadistic pleasures from hurting others.
This is not what we wanted from change. Has our goal been achieved
from the loktantrik republic that we have today? Obviously not.
Extortion and intimidation is still continuing in the mountains
and in the plains.
The political leadership must have vision
for the longer term. If we do not have a proper goal and the
means to see it through, even the achievements we have made
so far will not last long. The younger generation must focus
on this aspect. Otherwise, we will perpetually witness agitations
and struggles. The long term loser will be the nation, even
though some may see prospects in conflicts. The younger generation
should remain alert otherwise they will have to pay dearly.
Even today, the about two billion rupees that they send home
from abroad as remittance is said to be keeping the economy
on track. And this is how they have been made to pay for not
being able to work for the nation during earlier days.
Political culture must be developed to suit
our collective needs. Tolerance and cooperation should be the
culture that we should be promoting. Otherwise, we will have
a culture of conflict.
Corruption cannot stand in front of the rule
of law. Rule of law will help end impunity. There must be division
of powers among the different branches if government. Local
governments should be oriented towards popular participation.
We are talking about federal rule but we need to devise a structure
for that to take place. Still, what we cannot deny is the fact
then local government in essence must be responsive to popular
needs through their participation, whether we have one kind
or the other kind of federal rule is a secondary matter.
Employment opportunities can keep or retain
natural and human resources in their original localities and
stop them from migrating or being exported elsewhere. Periodical
elections are also a fundamental aspect of democracy. Political
parties must be able to motivate people towards being oriented
towards awareness and development, unlike trying to convert
them to their own ideology. Finally, conflicts should find a
place of resolution through dialogue.
Pusker Baral: You say that Nepal is
a loktantrik republic. The largest party that is leading the
government is still reviewing the terminology. I think it is
not wise to use the term.
Why should the media highlight political personalities
ignoring scientific and other minds?
What is the difference between democratic
republic and loktantrik republic?
There is constitutionally discriminated [positively]
quota for different groups. For how long should the state provide
Will the centre and federations witness conflicts
or not? We see such differences in other countries over the
share of natural resources. How should the state address such
Dhruba Koirala: Travel is not predictable
today because of closures. I do not see the rule of law being
Secondly, in a globalized economy, remittances
are common. Cannot one earn from wherever one pleases in the
context of globalization?
Ram Krishna Mandal:The handbook does
not talk about other tantras, apart from loktantra. What about
Narayan Ghimire: Shivaraj Dahal said
that we have brain drain and abuse of the young manpower. We
know that the youth are not utilized properly. But the paper
does not give us any alternatives. Will just mentioning it stop
the brain drain?
Yuvraj Neupane: You talked of people
migrating from the plains. We do not have such problems on this
side of the Chure Hills. I do not see people promoting discipline
and tolerance among the communities. You should organize more
such discussions in different parts of the country to make people
aware of the need to promote tolerance and cooperation.
You should also motivate the youth by guaranteeing
employment, otherwise, if they do not have opportunities, they
will go abroad to address their hand to mouth issues, otherwise
Vedraj Regmi: Dhruba Koirala raised
the issue of brain drain. If the brain drain occurs to push
the nation forward or to glorify it, then it is a positive thing.
There are also brainy people who have cursed their homeland
after they have resettled elsewhere. Talking about the Nepalese
in the Gulf is not a positive thing for Nepal although it is
in the purview of the globalization process. We are at the receiving
end of it. If we can use the manpower for production and export
it, like use of hydropower, we would be benefiting from globalization.
Pusker Baral: You mean to say that
if you benefit, you promote golobalization, and if not you do
not approve. This is not fair.
Vedraj Regmi: Look we await the corpses
of the boys at the airport after we have sent them abroad. The
government should be able to provide opportunities.
Ram Prasad Baral: Political parties
talk about change in the education system. But that is just
slogan. What kind of model do we need so that the youth can
be retained at home?
Shivaraj Dahal: Nepal's interim constitution
clearly talks about the loktantrik republic. That is why we
must accept it? Baralji hinted about what the Maoist party believes
in. It is their ideology and I do not have to promote theirs
or any party's ideology.
We cannot include all areas in our schedule
of function venues. Last time, we came to Sindhuli, but not
here. This time we are here. So please convey our message as
well. This is why I focus on the media aspect.
I just wanted to touch upon federal rule.
Not that I have a model to prescribe. But one must accept what
others talk about. But we should not forget our history of unification.
Forgetting the past is not acceptable.
The workers who have gone abroad for work
must be represented in the constitution. Those living abroad
and enjoying privileges in other countries have access to decision
making here. But not these workers working as labourers. The
remote areas must be represented and the voices of those people
as well. We see a lot of splittist tendencies that must be stopped.
We see the Tarai demands being raised, but these people do not
even raise the issue of border encroachment. All these issues
must be looked into before devising a federal for of rule.
Bimalji talked about good governance and rule
of law. I have talked about that in the paper quite extensively.
I understand that travelling is uncertain today. We must overcome
Regarding reservation, this is a very complicated
issue as the social mix is a complex one. Those outside the
state mainstream should be given a helping hand, but this should
not be taken as a long-term remedy, only a stop-gap measure.
The different terminologies that are used
to cover the meaning of democracy is done to suit the needs
of the parties.
Brain drain began during the Rana years by
sending hundreds of thousands during the world wars. Later on,
the ruling classes saw benefit in continuing it. The rising
conflicts in the society also worked as a push factor for the
youth, the lack of employment opportunities and the displacement
of traditional technologies. One reason is the trend among some
qualified persons taking over the jobs of a couple more like
himself. This also displaces the manpower that was supposed
to cover that slot. Similarly, politicians began promoting export
of manpower through various means. Even the thinking class does
not act honestly by providing sincere advice to the political
leadership. They would rather be servile to them. This too helps
in the creation of brain drain.
Yuvrajji talks about the gulf between the
plains and the mountains. Religion was one factor binding the
two and this was broken. This could lead the nation to destruction.
For predictability in travel and the like,
political stability is a must. If this does not happen, then
there will always be strikes and shutdowns.
For employment opportunities, we must shut down the border and
shield it from negative influences by enforcing the work permit
and rejuvenate the economy through hydel project construction.
Nirmal Baral: You talked of border encroachment in over
60 places, but the foreign minister has said that it is not
so except in Susta and Kalapani. He also said that we do not
have a map of our own border.
Shivaraj Dahal: That guy is a Madhesi.
We do have border experts saying quite the contrary and they
have printed maps. The British too have it. We have not been
able to raise our voice to press him to retract what he said.
But we are in a transition and we are not able to do so also
because of lack of awareness. He is showing communal tendencies
when he says it.
Chudamani Baral: Parties talk about
handing over everything to the people in the loktantra. Are
they trying to hoodwink us or are they serious? Again would
that be good for the people?
Shivaraj Dahal: Look we should be aware
and monitor what they are doing and demand accountability.
Surya Prasad: Cannot NEFAS and others
open up training centres in various parts to provide employment
to local youths.
Shivaraj Dahal: NEFAS is an academic
organization and teachers gather and come out to organize discussions.
They publish them to sustain their organization. Regarding influence
on the policymakers, our publications have done so.
Dilliram Dahal: Why do people change
their attitude once they reach a position of power? Why do not
people bring about parity between the means and their promises?
Shivaraj: Loktantra can go away but
we can bring it back again as we have already proved it. But
if the nation goes, it cannot be brought back. This is what
I finally wanted to say.
Bhuwan Baral: We are not quite clear
about democracy, new democracy and people's republic. I would
have liked clarification.
Shivaraj: Look, democracy is the key
here. Other terms are creations of individual political parties.
Yognath Baral: If the leaders do not
know what qualities they should have how did they become leaders.
Shivaraj: That is why I am stressing
the need for the youth to understand the stakes, so that their
leadership in future is better. We can learn a lot from religion,
history and our geography.
Chair: This discussion was brought
to the ilaka level here for the first time and I am grateful
for that. The civic qualities that the presenters described
was an eye opener for us. I felt that the Q and A session drifted
towards blaming the political parties for all ills. It would
have been better to talk less of political parties while raising
awareness to people. Thank you for participating.