Civic Education for the Young Generation
Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
Nepal is undergoing momentous changes,
not just in the political sphere but in its development landscape
as well. With the East-West Highway now complete, linking the
whole country together, there are road networks being built to
connect the remote northern areas with the more urban south. One
such recent construction links the different districts of Sagarmatha
Zone and this link road is being constructed through Katari, a
town in the inner-Madhes, or a valley in the eastern region that
lies between the Chure and Mahabharat ranges. Visitors to Katari
see the changes taking place because of its strategic location
that is geared towards capitalizing the movement of the people
A seminar "Civic Education of the Younger
Generation" was organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
Studies, with cooperation from Friedrich Ebert Foundation, in
November in this town for the first time. It was held at the
local chambers' building where a large number of teachers, students,
local politicians and journalists were invited to join in the
discussions. The discussions were chaired by Rajendra Prasad
Niroula, the headmaster of Tribeni Higher Secondary School,
which teaches the civic education subject.
After the initial formalities of seating the
chairperson, NEFAS Executive Director Ananda Srestha briefed
the participants on the activities of the organization. He explained
the objectives of the seminar saying that he needed active participation
so that the opinions expressed could serve as valuable feedback
for the publication that NEFAS had in mind on the subject of
civic education. This was followed by Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
laying bare the inconsistencies and lacunas in public life of
the Nepalese eating their way into the very fabric of the nation
state and its capacity to deliver goods to the people. The second
presentation was made by Vedraj Regmi, a university teacher,
who explained the different dimensions of a democratic system
and urged the participants to be agents themselves in spreading
the message about how a good democracy should function. Both
the presenters stressed the need for the younger generation
to take up the mantle of leading the nation into the future
in a more aware and educated manner.
The floor discussions showed how starved the
participants were of functions like these. Instead of being
forced into passivity with mere negative thoughts about everything
going wrong they can indeed be illuminated into thinking what
is possible. Almost all participants expressed their gratitude
to the organizers for bringing such discussions in a small town
such as Katari. They were also generous in their comments particularly
about the roles that the youth could play. Some of them talked
about the need for political parties themselves to be democratic
before talking about democratizing the society. Some blamed
the politicians for distroting the political system to suit
their own needs while others said that it was merely a tool
for them to remain in power. They were almost unanimous about
the failure of the leadership to deliver the goods to the people.
Excerpt of the proceedings
Chair: Rajendra Prasad Niroula, headmaster,
Tribeni Higher Secondary Schoo
Ananda Srestha's welcome
I want to welcome you all and let me tell
you something about Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies. We
have been organizing seminars in different parts of the country.
The proceedings are published which ate readily taken up by
universities and schools as a teaching material for their students.
Today's discussion is titled 'Civic Education for the Young
Generation'. The working paper Shivaraj Dahal will present will
be soliciting your comments. Please provide your comments and
help him make the paper more complete by including them in it.
We will be publishing it later. We have been doing the same
thing in many different parts of the country. Please participate
actively in the discussions.
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation.
We have prepared about a dozen papers on civic
education for the young generation. My paper on civic education
will make the second chapter in the book being prepared for
the higher secondary course in the country. [goes on to read
Dr Bedraj Acharya on the 'Handbook
Regarding youth, the nation is facing two
grave issues. Those taking up technical subjects are seeking
greener pastures in foreign lands. About a thousand of them
are leaving for western countries every day. Family members
encourage the trend. Secondly, there is the less qualified youth
who leave for menial jobs in the Gulf countries. The remittance
is being made out to be something worthwhile. People talk about
them earning a lot of money. They point to their purchase of
properties in urban areas. But calculations show, according
to experts, that the amount they purchase in the cities does
not actually add up to the amount they earn. The property added
is in fact the amount sole in their villages for meeting the
expenses to travel abroad like preparing the necessary papers.
In sum, they do not earn anything at all for themselves to make
up for the losses that they had undergone earlier. This is a
sad state of affairs.
Another trend that we see is that people are
being pushed out because of the ongoing conflicts. Roads and
highways are shut down everyday and everywhere. People in the
Tarai villages are forced to sell their property and migrate
to the mountainous areas. This is a situation that we find ourselves
in after sacrificing so many lives. What must we do to live
more secure lives? What did we achieve after so many struggles
and changes? We are seeing ethnic distrust instead of harmony.
This is a depraved interpretation of ethnic rights and identity
politics. This is not what we fought for, for so long.
It is these issues that civic education addresses.
The search should be for happiness and ways to share it with
To strengthen democracy, there are some fundamentals
that we must follow. Human rights must be protected and promoted,
rule of law established to replace personality based politics
and division of power devised to produce the right checks and
balances in the power structures.
These days we are debating the issues regarding
federal rule. Since we have yet to come up with the right model,
it would be safe for us, at present, to talk about the importance
of local governments in a democracy. And, federal provinces
are nothing but a form of local government. Local government
must be allowed autonomy to run local projects with popular
participation while national projects should be handled by the
centre. This should be the essence of local governance. Local
government should be able to strike deals with the industries
and business houses in their jurisdiction including multinational
companies. They should seek accountability in the use of, and
employment opportunities for, their local resources and the
There is a need for reduction of militancy
in the political culture and it should be replaced by a culture
of cooperation and trust. The civil society must be promoted
and protected. The objective should be for a democratic political
Democracy should be able to capitalize from
trends like globalization of the economy or culture.
The right mix of rights and responsibilities
must be sought after.
Kumar Singh Rai, teacher: You should
have given us the paper beforehand. I also study civic education.
I think talking about civics should mean talking about people
recognizing themselves as citizens. People were praja and raiti
yesterday. They have yet to become citizens today. Our efforts
should be geared towards making that possible. Had NEFAS or
the government been working harder to make people aware, people
would have become citizens long time ago.
What is loktantra? As long as one is out of
power one talks about loktantra and once that is achieved they
appear to understand loktantra as a system where one can do
what one likes. Unless we strengthen loktantra, we cannot turn
people into citizens. Parties should be loktantrik and cultural
and economic transformations are needed for becoming citizens.
People have started talking about not feeling any change. Political
parties should be loktantrik and the various organizations within
them should be practicing it in their behaviour.
Self respect is a product of democracy and
until that is achieved there will be no democracy and the prospect
of conflict always hangs in the air. In spite of the rights
enshrined in the 1991 constitution people could not exercise
their rights and the result was conflict. Until we can guarantee
that democracy is practiced, another conflict will arise even
after we write the new constitution. This would happen if we
do not change our political behaviour.
Authoritarianism existed yesterday and has
continued to this day. These issues must be addressed in civic
education. Please disseminate these ideas among political parties
and leaders as well.
Tanka Gautam: I want to thank you for
bringing these discussions at this local level. The paper appears
to be looking at the negative aspects more than anything else.
If the family is the first school of children, then civics may
be needed for children in their first years and we should find
a way to do so.
The state of affairs has been described, but
there appears to be no reason given for why this happened. How
is the state managing self respect, food and clothes and security?
What can youths do to guarantee these three aspects?
Let me tell you a story. A Nepalese thought
that he wanted to go to America to enjoy rights. He went there
all right. He enjoyed walking, swinging his arms left and right
to enjoy his freedom. This eventually led to the breaking of
a passer-by's nose. Police arrested him for encroaching someone
else's rights. But he could not understand why he was arrested
in such a free country. This is not enjoying one's right. It
is encroachiong upon others' to walk.
Narendra Prasad Niraula, teacher: So
far, we have seen no political party or party oganization practicing
Regarding the youth, what role can they play
while drafting the constitution?
Remember, we said that the 1991 constitution
was the best in the world. If we talk about the privileges for
the king and the powers he enjoyed, even if it was called a
constitutional monarchy, then we cannot say that we were honest
about what we know. That provision was not good. But we remained
silent and instead and praised the king.
We talk in negative tones a lot, but we do
not provide a clear vision or alternative.
Biplav Adhikari: I like what you are
saying. You are talking about making people aware about their
rights. But you will leave us soon to organize other programmes.
And, once you do so we forget the good things we said here.
We will even begin to undermine the essence of what you have
taught us. If we could give continuity to the teachings and
even make the youth more oriented towards your sayings, it would
be good. What you say could help us retain the knowledge that
we have gained so far if we could continue to interact in a
Shivaraj Dahal's reply
The books that we have published have been
used by different levels in the university. We have been able
to provide teaching materials where there was none.
The objective of today's discussion is to
promote democratic culture. This is also an opportunity to make
people aware about their rights and the need to protect them
through the basic law. We want to raise awareness about the
need to develop patriotic feelings.
The subject is being taught at higher secondary
levels and you too could begin teaching the subject soon. This
discussion would thus help us all.
When a person is born he must be developed
as a citizen by the state by guaranteeing his rights.
Regarding leadership characters, democracy
cannot be defined to suit the needs of every political leader.
But we are moving towards the stone age and the culture associated
with it by organizing closures and blockading to prevent anyone
from even moving about. It is related with a culture that needs
to be developed. Civic education is needed for all, not just
The reason for the youth to leave for jobs
abroad has been here for a long time. The Ranas, allowed that
to happen to preserve their own power and privileges. After
1990, schools and colleges opened but no corresponding employment
opportunities were created. Even those that we had, were sold
off cheaply or shut down. This led to a rise in unemployment,
corruption and political instability. This produced conflict
in the country. Hundreds of thousands were displaced. This acted
as an additional push factor for the brain and muscle drain.
Add to this the displacement of our traditional technology that
had traditionally been giving employment to lots of people.
The youth were left out of a job market that was being taken
up by more qualified unemployed manpower. The government then
began promoting the trend if only to keep economic stability
through remittances. One can even argue that the government
took the youth as a problem and wanted to root them out by sending
Political stability is needed to stop the
muscle and brain drain, employment created by promoting small
and cottage industries, village tourism, small hydels etc. We
need to enforce the work permit system.
I want to thank NEFAS for running the show
here. This was a good intellectual exercise for us. This auditorium
was used for other kinds of functions and it is a rare occasion
that we could have an educative function here. The present needs
a lot of civic education. We have not been able to become true
citizens in spite of so many struggles and movements. We are
embarking on the road to drafting a constitution. Every citizen
should have a role in having his rights protected by the constitution.
We had talked about the 1991 constitution as a model one, but
that could not stay for long. The coming constitution must be
able to last longer. What we have learnt is that writing a good
constitution is not enough. Those enforcing the constitution
should also be qualified personnel.
We, the thinkers, are also accused of corrupt
minds at times for the problems in the society. They say that
we have been running after personal interests and forgetting
our duty. If we start running after politicians at a time when
should be guiding them, especially at a time such as this, we
would not have contributed to the efforts in turning people
The course of study of Class 12 has this subject.
Those teaching should be allowed to teach what they think is
right. We used to teach students to learn about the king being
the reincarnation of Lord Bishnu, although teachers knew that
it was not true. Such trends should end and people allowed to
teach the right stuff.
Ananda Srestha: For NEFAS publications
please visit us, especially if you have campus libraries or
the like and we will provide them for free.