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Civic Education for the Young Generation

Organized by Nepal Foundation of Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

21 Nov 2009, Jiri, Dolakha

Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies organized a seminar on Civic Education for the Young Generation in Jiri on 21 November, 2009. This was the first ever function held in this temperate hamlet, east of Kathmandu, by NEFAS. There are a number of schools including higher secondary ones in the small town where civic education is taught. Teachers, local political leaders and other professionals were present at the seminar. Tek Bahadur Jirel, the local headmaster, presided over the single-session seminar. The floor was open for comments and suggestions as soon as the presenters delivered their lectures.

Shivaraj Dahal presented the paper on civic education where he called upon the participants to spread awareness about the plight that Nepalese youths were being forced to go through not just by the society at large but also by the political leadership. The youth must be more active in public life to transform their status into one of leadership, Dahal said.

The next presentation was made by Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal on ways to strengthen democracy in the country. The lecture was based on the 'Handbook on Democracy' provided by Frederic Ebert Stigtung of Germany. The NEFAS programme on civic education is supported by FES. Prof. Dahal laid down the foundations on which democracy could be institutionalized, viz.- strengthening human rights, rule of law, strong political parties, independent judiciary, autonomous local governance and the like.

The welcome address and introduction of the theme of the seminar was delivered by Prof. Ananda Srestha, executive director of NEFAS. In it he said that NEFAS was an academic organization set up in 1990 and that the outcome of the discussions the organization has been holding in different parts of the country are published as books. "Those books are being taught at various levels of schools and universities," he said.

The direction that the country should be taking at this point of political transition is confusing. The youth must take the mantle to lead the nation, he said and added that decision-making must not be left only to the politicians. The youth too need to be involved, Prof. Srestha said.

During the floor discussion, several of the participants wanted the seminar to continue for several days as the topic was too contemporary to be pushed aside. This is a demand of not just the participants of the Jiri seminar but almost every other venue in other parts of the country where NEFAS has held the civic education discussion. Others demanded a larger share of youth participants in seminars organized about the youth. But obviously there were more sober voices wanting to know more about burning issues like civil supremacy, a topic that has kicked up a lot of dust in the course of constitution drafting in the country. "The political parties are muddling up the issue of civil supremacy and the issue of civic education should add at least one paragraph to Shivaraj Dahal's paper to clarify things," said one participant. Others wanted moral science to be integrated with the topic of civic education in school curricula.

Several participants talked about better economic condition to retain the young manpower from going abroad for menial jobs. They wanted the human resource to be utilized for the prosperity of the nation. In his concluding remarks Mr. Jirel said that youth from Africa used to be tied up and taken to Europe in shiploads to work as slaves. "Africa was a prosperous land in the past with very productive farmland. Once the youth were taken away famine spread and even cannibalism began to be practiced," he said stressing the importance of the role of youth in nation-building.

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