Civic Education for the Young Generation
Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
Fattepur, 24 November 2008
Fattepur, a small town in the Chure foothills
on the western banks of the Sapta Koshi River, is one of the places
where Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies recently organized
any kind of discussion for the first time. The town is gaining
significance because of the hub it is developing into, especially
after the Sapta Koshi floods forced the authorities to open up
an alternative route through it for crossing the river.
Local opinion makers, teachers, political
activists and journalists were invited for a discussion on 'Civic
Education for the Young Generation' to be held at a local school.
The discussion series on the subject, being run with cooperation
of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of Germany, has generally been able
to enthuse people from different walks of life into active participation
because of the nature of the topic. Although the discussions
are held for a specific purpose, namely to gather feedback for
the upcoming book on civic education which is likely to be part
of the higher secondary curriculum, the mix of participants
ensure that the opinions expressed are reflective of a more
complex set of concerns affecting the local people. Even in
these circumstances, it is easy to see that most of the problems
seen in the public sector all around today find the younger
generation at the centre of everything. "If there is any
improvement to be seen in the future, one must pin their hopes
on this generation", is the common theme of people's varied
opinions wherever one goes.
In Fattepur, the seminar began straight off
with NEFAS Executive Director Ananda Srestha introducing the
organization, its objectives, the topic of discussion and the
presenters. It did not even follow the usual formality of choosing
a chairperson for the function. The discussions needed to be
concluded for the school to resume its classes. Srestha's address
was followed by Shivaraj Dahal who made his presentation on
the theme of the seminar. In it, he explained the various social,
economic and political deviations afflicting the nation and
justified the need for the younger generation to come forward
and rein them in. Vedraj Regmi made his presentation on the
'Handbook on Democracy', an FES publication, to explain the
different dimensions of the polity which lays the groundwork
for all that can be done in the public sphere and how to mend
the ways of those exhibiting apolitical behaviour by remaining
within the system.
During the floor discussions, participants
had little to disagree with the presenters except that they
wanted the civic education field to widen to include the politicians,
not just students. Some wanted the education to be given to
smaller children than envisaged by the government's school curriculum
while others stressed the need to provide civic education for
politicians more than for the students. A participant even went
as far as to say that the democracy that we have today is not
for the people but for the politicians themselves and that it
needed to change so that it could be oriented to meet popular
Excerpt of the Seminar
Ananda Srestha's welcome address: Nepal
Foundation for Advanced Studies has been organizing discussions
in different parts of the country as we have tried not to be
Kathmandu-centric in our approach. It has already been about
a decade since we have been organising these discussions. Our
focus is on the younger generation in this series.
Why the focus on the youth? This is because
we want to help make them aware about the need to prepare for
their future leadership roles. They can have an impact on the
development activities and political developments. They should
not necessarily be party men, but they must be politically aware.
Depending on the present political leadership is not doing us
any good. For political stability, the younger generation must
act. At the present, they are being driven away from home to
other countries and away from politics. It is these issues that
the working paper will try to highlight. Please try and contribute
through your comments as we value them. Those comments will
be published as books. This is an important aspect of the discussions
as our strength is in publications that have been widely used
in the country's universities and abroad. The publications also
reach decision makers. This is our focus and a major objective
of the Foundation. Please contribute actively.
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
Ananda Srerstha: The objective of this seminar
is that we are trying to collect feedback for a textbook that
we are developing. We also want participation from different
quarters on how to teach civic education to the youth. Therefore,
we want a mix of participants, not just the youth.
Vedraj Regmi's presentation
All the way since the referendum to the establishment
of loktantrik republic, we have lost a lot of lives in the name
of democracy. We still see people being displaced from the plains
to higher reaches of the country. All this because of conflict.
One conflict has given way to more conflicts. People have been
forced to seek safe shelters after being displaced from their
ancestral homes. We seem to be suffering from sadism and enjoying
the sufferings of others. There is domination of the strong.
If we allow this to continue, democracy will just be a mirage
and we will face greater conflicts in the future. And, until
we change our mindset, the prospect will never be brighter.
We have proof that this is a strong possibility. Remember, we
said that the 1991 constitution was the best in the world and
now we have discarded it? We should be able to transform our
thinking faculties and change our behaviour by changing our
The reason for taking up the topic for discussion
is that we want to make the younger generation aware of their
political surroundings as it is them that are the future. This
is possible through civic education.
Strengthening of democracy requires the rule
of law to be established. Rules of individuals have been the
norm so far in Nepal. We need the rule of law to give continuity
and strength to democracy. We do not have it today as there
is no rule of law. Human rights, proper division of power are
other aspects that must be focussed on. Also, periodical elections
are an essential factor that give continuity to democratic practices.
This gives political stability and security to the people in
general, quite unlike today's habit of organizing strikes and
shutdowns almost everyday.
Iswori Prasad Nepal: You talk of qualification
of the members of parliament. I like the point you make. These
people are supposed to draft policies. I agree. The irony is
that we seek qualification of people implementing the policies,
like the bureaucracy, but not those formulating it. Secondly,
the sense of impunity being promoted by politicizing crimes,
like murders, must end. Political parties organize strikes and
shutdowns that seriously affect the life of the people. Giving
suffering to people for political gain is not an acceptable
thing. Such practices should be declared a crime. Commitment
must be sought from political parties that they will refrain
from making people pay for their benefit. Thirdly, let me propose
that a provision seeking at least 50 per cent participation
of the younger generation in every sector be included in the
Civic education should not be limited to students,
but also the political leadership.
Shivaraj Dahal: Our society is slowly
orienting itself towards modernity from mediaeval practices.
We have been used to a tradition that does not look at the youth
in a good light. Secondly, we want our children to take up technical
education. We allow them to study political sciences only if
they do not get enrolled in any other subject. A doctor can
only preserve the lives of a few hundred people, but a good
political leader can save an entire nation. Hence, not just
the politicians, but our society is also to blame. Civic education
is needed for us too. We should be able to check the politicians
Regarding the rule of law, even if an organized
criminal gang takes up a political slogan, it is legitimized
as a political party. This is the state of impunity affecting
the nation today.
Chandra Shhekhar Chaudhari: The topic
of the seminar should have been 'civic education for politicians'.
You point out all the deviations in the society. How did the
all these deviations begin? It was not the youth that brought
us to this. It was the politicians. We have ethnic tensions
today. Who did this? It is the prime minister of the day who
Shivaraj Dahal: We are seeing the development
of a militant culture. Dependence and dictatorship is being
imposed upon us.
Kishor Kumar Shah: Nepal is a whole
nation that needs to include all the ethnic and linguistic groups
under one umbrella. We see political contractors creating instability
in the country. You should teach civic education to the politicians.
These people are spilling our blood to suit their interests.
People are leaving for foreign lands to escape all this. Had
we been able to capitalize on this manpower instead of draining
it, we would have a better political environment today. But
the political contractors will not allow that to happen. How
can this trend of impunity be reversed? Rule of law must be
Iswori Prasad Nepal: If you are able
to organize weeklong trainings in villges like Fattehpur instead
of just a one-day seminar, we would really benefit from it.
This is a good topic and would be really helpful.
Kripananda Roka: I too feel that this
education is needed for politicians. I believe that it would
be more useful that way. I am just a management graduate and
I see that the proper manpower is not allocated to their respective
posts. Engineers are named bank chiefs and the like. This trend
is on the increase these days. Qualification is not being respected
and political priorities take precedence over qualification.
Shivaraj Dahal: I agree. But we do
not have any means to attract these politicians to our discussions.
Hence, we want to ask the teachers to teach the youth, so that
they will not do the same thing in future.
Murari Karki: You seem to blame everything
on politics. I think that there are other things as well. I
like the idea of teaching the young generation civic education.
This has given me hope regarding the future. Politics is merely
a black hole. Our policies have been the same throughout, but
our mindset has not been able to change. It is our mindset,
not just politicians, that is to blame The Chinese want to give
us cheap petrol, but we are ignoring that offer and still buying
more expensive products. Why? Why do we, the people, not rebel?
Shivaraj Dahal: Politics holds primacy
over everything. That is why we have been focusing on it. Hence,
when we seek change, we should see change.
Prem Kumar Subba: The civic education
course is fixed for higher secondary schools. Can we not have
it for our schools here?
Shivaraj Dahal: We are not any official
agency on the subject. But we do have the course books and if
you contact us we can help you with some.
Tirtha Raj Upadhya: Let me point out,
unlike Lincoln, that democracy is not for the people but for
A lifespan can be divided into childhood,
youth and old age. The youth is the most significant group.
They need training. They are leaving the country for lack of
jobs. Civic education should be given to them. Apart from those
who have left the country, we see those staying back fighting
each other. There must be work, worship and wisdom for people
Shivaraj Dahal: We will try and include
the comments that we have received so far. There is a need for
all of us to work for then nation in a sincere manner. It is
the duty of all of us.
Vedraj Regmi's vote of thanks.