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Civic Education for the Young Generation

Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

22 September 2008, Lalbandi

Lalbandi boasts of better quality education facilities than the surroundings. Students are known to ditch neighbourhood campuses, travel quite a distance to be able to join the facilities in this town, a hub along the East-West Highway. The venue for the Civic Education for the Young Generation seminar conducted by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies with cooperation of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of Germany was a rapidly developing college where enthusiastic college staffs were working hard to garner all the support they could to turn their facilities into a center of excellence. Indeed, for the fulfilment of the objective of the seminar, to gather enlightened comments from stakeholders to enrich the working paper when it finally comes out in published form, such discussion venues are natural choices. But all this comes as a stark contrast to other facilities that are still in the more primitive stage in this town.

NEFAS Executive Director Ananda Srestha welcomed the participants with introductory remarks about the activities of his organization and appealed to them to contribute to the discussions by giving comments. This was followed by the two presentations by Shivaraj Dahal on Civic Education for the Young Generation and Prof Ram Kumar Dahal on the different dimensions of democracy. Shivaraj Dahal talks about the absolute lack of civic sense among public figures eating into the potential future leadership characteristics among the younger generation. Corruption, wrong policies, irresponsible public behaviour have all been a by-products of the absence of civic sense, is Dahal's conclusion. His idea is to impart civic education to people early in life so that such deviations do not form the mainstream of public life.

Professor Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation is made up of the issues dealt with in "Handbook on Democracy" published by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Apart from explaining the balance of power needed in a democracy, he also took up the hot topics of federal rule and good governance to discuss it at length. He talked about the elements making up good governance and the different examples of federal rule found in different countries around the world to drive his point home. His complaint was that although the topic was being debated political parties had not been able to come out with an agreement on the model that Nepal should follow. The baseline for such a model should not lead to session, he said.

The participants for their part homed in on the differences seen between theory and practice in Nepal in the fields of good governance, balance of power, nationalism and the like. The participants wanted more on the possible solutions that the problems that the presenters were pointing at, either directly or indirectly. But the presenters were quick to point out that there were indeed solutions given in the paper that they thought would help resolve the problems. But to build from the bottom-up, there is no alternative to civic education, they said.

After the two presenters furnished their replies Shivaraj Dahal gave his vote of thanks to conclude the event for the day.

Excerpt of the proceedings

Basudev :Chair

Ananda Srestha's welcome address: I am happy to welcome you to this function. Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies is an academic organization set up in 1990. Ever since then, we have been moving with the objective of holding discussions on important topics and publishing them for wider use. Most notably, the publications have been used as academic material by the universities and schools.

Civic education is one of the topics we have been involved in. We have held discussions in various parts of the country on the subjects and it is in this context that we are here. Please actively contribute to the discussion through your comments so that they can prove to be important contribution to the publication that we are planning to come out with.

Our discussions are geared towards seeking ways to providing political stability to the country. And, we think that one of the causes for the perpetual instability in the country is the exclusion of the younger generation from the political leadership. The youths need to be more aware about their surroundings and their capabilities. This would provide the dynamo to the political process towards stability. Too many governments have been changed in too few a years and this needs to change for the sake of political stability.

Your contributions will no doubt enrich the working paper to be presented by Shivaraj Dahal. Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal will also make his presentation on the political process.

Shivaraj Dahal's presentation. My presentation is the second chapter in the civic education book being taught ins chools.

Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation: The youth have an important role in writing the new constitution which will be geared towards building a new Nepal. We need civic education for that. And, there is a difference between political education and civic education. Political education aims to orient people towards certain political objectives by political parties. This is usually limited to party cadres. But civic education goes beyond that, beyond militarizing them against their political rivals. Civic education allows different kinds of political orientations and different groups to form a common forum to discuss national issues. Although each one may hold dissimilar views, it does provide an opportunity to remain politically aware.

Let me discus some of the points raised in this handbook on democracy. [Goes on to discuss the points]


Sabin Pradhan: Shivaraj Dahal talks of civic education for the citizen, but is this not a global issue? He also talks of loktantrik ganatantra where democratic exercise goes on without a monarchy. Can't we talk of just loktantra.

Shivaraj Dahal: I agree. It is because democracy is being tainted with malpractices and this situation ahs forced us to seek refuge in terminologies. We used the term in this paper just to go in accordance with the constitution. Loktantra encompasses a wide number of areas. I do not see any fundamental difference among the terms in use.

C.P. Poudel: You talked of corruption. There is a saying that Prithvinarayan Shah allowed one per cent corruption during his times. King Tribhuvan allowed five per cent. King Mahendra allowed even more. Today, there is no limit to corruption.

Sangita Sapkota: I was happy to listen to your lecture. And, this should continue so that it keeps enlightening people like us.

Govinda: Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal said civil society should not be politically partisan, But Shivaraj Dahal said that they could be members of political parties. Please clarify.

.......: There was civics in school curriculum at first. And, then, the name of the subject kept changing. Now, we talk of civic education. What is the difference.

Amit Chaudhary: Politicians have party flags put up in their homes, but nobody appears to have the national flag with them. Will a day come when even ministers begin to carry their party flags mounted on their cars instead of the national one ? Where does nationalism stand today?

Bhairav Dhungel: You talked about judges taking their oath in front of the head of government. Please enlighten me with examples from other countries about similar circumstances.

Ram Nath Yadav: Who are you trying to point at by talking about militant culture?

Shivaraj's reply

Civics, moral education or civic education do contain differences in meaning. Moral education teaches morality, but civic education is somewhat different in that it expands to talk of the global developments as well. It talks of the responsibility and rights of the citizen. The paper I just presented makes Chapter II of the Contemporary Society subject for 10+2 classes.

I agree that politicians are more obsessed with party flags rather than the national one. It is our duty to press them to keep the nation above their party.

When I talked of militant culture, I was talking about the trend among political parties to train their cadres in such a way as to make them intolerant of other party rivals. This makes them militant and they concentrate on fighting their rivals rather than holding dialogue to resolve issues.

Dipendra Upreti: You talk of brain drain sapping the country's resources. But everyone talks of problems. Please give us some solutions.

Shivaraj Dahal: We need political stability, first. We have had autocratic rule since the Rana times and they earned money by exporting manpower. Today, we see unemployment and people want jobs. If they do not get opportunities where political instability is the norm, they will obviously leave for a place where there is stability and jobs. We must socially boycott the corrupt to root out corruption in society. Political stability must be stressed, trade and tourism must be promoted, work permit for foreign labourers enforced, micro hydel projects initiated for creating jobs. Political unity can produce stability.

Bhairav Dhungel: Is your function limited to Lalbandi or have you been holding it elsewhere?

Shivaraj Dahal: This is part of a series of seminars that we have been holding in different parts of the country, not just Lalbandi.

Ram Kumar Dahal's reply

There is a difference between the civil society in Britain and its counterpart in Nepal. I mentioned Britain because the civil society there is strong. In Nepal, the weaknesses arise from the fact that they have yet to mature.

Regarding political membership of civil society organizations, there is no problem with harbouring political opinion, but if the organization functions to suit party agenda while pushing its own agenda, it cannot be said to be working in the public interest.

The name of the civic education subject has been changed to suit the political agenda of the day. The Panchayat system wanted to depoliticize education by using it as a separate subject called Social Studies.

I do not know of any examples of judges sworn in by the head of government.

We need civic education to make us responsible towards our nation not just awareness about our rights.

Vote of thanks by Shivaraj Dahal

Chairman's remarks: The efforts by NEFAS to make the murky political waters clearer by organizing the function here is laudable. I also want to thank NEFAS for choosing this particular campus for doing so. The academic exercise has made us aware and made us more responsible towards our own duties and practice. If we can pursue this agenda further by making those near to us aware, the attempt would be quite fruitful.

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