| Civic Education
for Strengthening Relations between People and Local Self Governance
by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
9 September 2010, Kakarbhitta
A one-day seminar on civic education was
organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies and Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung on the border town of Kakarbhitta on 9 September,
2010. The venue was a public school and the participants included
teachers, local officials, students and the leaders of the society
of this new yet small town. Participation initially faced hiccups
because most of the invitees had to attend a funeral following
the death of a prominent social worker in the area. The seminar
went ahead as the event had been planned in advance.
In his opening address NEFAS Executive Director
Ananda Srestha welcomed the participants saying that NEFAS had
been holding such public discussions on public issues ever since
its establishment in 1990. He informed the audience that the
outcomes of those discussions had been published and helped
students, policymakers and those interested in the respective
subjects with a reference material. Today's discussion on civic
education and local government will also help in the production
of a book that will be part of the school curriculum, he said.
Srestha asked everyone to contribute with their comments.
Chandra Dev Bhatta, the FES representative,
took over to introduce to the participants his organization.
He said that the foundation named after the first German president
has been working in 80 different countries to promote the values
of social justice, equality, freedom, solidarity and peace.
He asked the participants to take note of the fact that the
country was writing a new constitution and raise issues that
need to be included in the national document.
The seminar saw three presentations made by
Shivaraj Dahal, Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal and Bedraj Acharya. Dahal's
paper was on civic education while Prof. Dahal made his presentation
on the FES Handbook on Democracy. Acharya talked about contemporary
economic issues. In his presentation, Shivaraj Dahal talked
about the need for people to be aware of their rights and responsibilities
because if the people did not exercise their rights the whole
nation would continue to deviate from its chosen path. He pointed
to the political chaos, loss of social harmony and the economic
decline as p[roof of the absence of civic sense not only among
the politicians but also the people in general. The people must
be aware of their rights and regard themselves as 'citizens'
and not just 'people' he said.
Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal explained to the audience
the fundamentals of a democracy as presented in the FES handbook.
He talked about the different kinds of democracy, kinds of elections,
branches of government and separation of powers, the political
parties, transparency, rule of law, free press and the like.
The professor also used examples from various western democracies
to drive home his point.
Bedraj Acharya talked about poverty in the
country and said that the task of the policymakers was to meet
the basic needs of the populace. If the people do not have their
hand-to-mouth needs met, then there will never be political
stability, he said. There were other aspects of basic needs
like health, education, housing and the like, Acharya said,
and added that the state must work to fulfill these needs for
the people to truly enjoy democracy and prosperity.
The presentations was followed by the floor
discussions where participants not only raised simple queries
seeking explanations of the terms and terminologies used in
the papers but also suggested ideas and opinions that could
be included in the paper. If some of them wanted to know what
their own part would be in reforming the society, others thought
that the political leadership and even the civil society for
not responding to national crises in time.
The seminar ended with Chairman Niroula thanking
all the participants for the lively participation in spite of
the tragedy [death of an eminent person] that occurred in the
town that robbed the seminar of some of the participants.
Excerpt of the seminar
Ananda Srestha's welcome address: Nepal
Foundation for Advanced Studies has been organizing discussions
on national issues since 1990, the year NEFAS came into being.
These discussions are mostly held outside the capital. It is
in this context that we are here in Kakarbhitta. The discussions
do not go to waste as they are later published in book form.
Shivaraj Dahal and Ram Kumar Dahal will be making presentations
and we solicit your comments so that they can be incorporated
in the publication that will be produced from the outcome of
Chandra Dev Bhatta: Friedrich Ebert
was the first president of Germany. FES or the foundation that
I work for is involved in promoting freedom equality, solidarity
and social justice. All these are issues that we in Nepal have
been facing problems with today. Nepal is working to develop
a new social contract. We are trying to see that these values
are included in the new contract, or the constitution that is
being drafted. The weak must be included in the political process
If the weak are not included the political system will not be
We need to understand what the state is, what
democracy is and how the economy is running. We need to understand
how all voices are included in the mainstream. And, since 2007
B.S, people have not been able to enjoy the fruits of democracy.
That is why we have periodic movements and agitations.
We need civic education to understand all
At the moment, we have different competing
identities in a fragmented state and this needs to be amalgamated
into a national identity where we have a common consensus on
issues that concerns all of us. These fragmented and scattered
identities must be forged into one so that all can feel included.
This same problem exists in the United States as well because
they need to grapple with the problems of bringing people from
all around the world to their country- forging many national
identities into an American identity.
Over 90 per cent of the Nepalese are poor
and we must be able to empower them. Their problems need to
be brought to the mainstream if they are to be solved. And,
for that we need civic education. We are targeting the youth
as most of the voters are between 18 and 35 years of age, a
section of the populace that is not included in the decision
making circle. With not much room inside the country, they are
increasingly finding themselves being pushed outside the country
in search of jobs.
Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
Bedraj Acharya's presentation
Khagendra Dhungana: What do you expect
from us regarding civic education?
You talked of love for the country. What should
we do to show that?
How do we demand our rights from the politicians
who do not respect us and our needs?
Condoms were advertised because of AIDS spread.
People talked of ethnic issues and people rose to demand ethnic
Why do people not think of promoting patriotic
songs or music and why not promote such ideas?
You talked of Nepalese education. We are unemployed
and we do not see our education helping us by becoming useful
in our day to day lives.
Mohan Poudel: We talked of politics.
What is there for us youth to know yet? We have already seen
our incapability to elect a prime minister even for a record
7th time? Is it that things will work if we have a young prime
minister? I feel that we also need experience. How do we provide
new leadership? Has our leadership failed or do we need a new
Civil society is indeed a sack of rotten potatoes
like Baburam Bhattarai said.
Why was the civil society not needed before
2062 B.S. They only appear for short intervals to benefit one
or the other political group. Where do they go for the rest
of the time?
People should rise to the occasion to develop
a real civil society. Is loktantra failing because people are
Suman Karki: What does popular revolt
Kul Prasad Ghimire: We talked of democratic
rights. Who should provide us these rights? I feel education
should be compulsory at least until high school. Without education
people won't know their rights and duties. How can so many poor
people be able to afford education? Free education, therefore,
is needed. Education must be vocational and applicable in income
generating activities so that employment can be generated.
Commercial education must be prohibited, as
the poor people cannot afford it after a certain number of years.
There is corruption also in private schools where teachers are
exploited. Even shopkeepers are corrupt because of extortionary
prices. Even money changers are corrupt as they are overcharging
while changing Indian currency.
NEFAS should make clear which political system
gives citizen's their rights and duties.
Shivaraj Dahal reply
To Khagendra Dhungana, it is civic education
that provides knowledge about civic rights and duties. Today,
we find ourselves demanding rights without seeking to fulfill
our civic responsibilities.
We talk of loktantra but do not possess loktantric
culture. Loktantra is a perpetually changing system and we must
gear ourselves for that.
Our young generation is leaving the country
while our local industry is disappearing. If this generation
takes the initiative in national politics then we could give
birth to statesmen of tomorrow.
Regarding patriotism, we have a diverse people,
in ethnic and linguistic terms. We need to create employment
here. We are more proud of flying party flags in our homes than
Regarding education policy, we are engaged
in regimented education. Buddha did not seek education from
elsewhere, he spread his own knowledge. And, everyone else in
the world follows Buddhist religion, except apparently the Nepalese.
We are mired in conflict and wars instead.
Education must be made practical and vocational.
Bikas Upreti: Why you discourage party politics among
youths. Please tell us the kind of politics we should be involved
Shivaraj Dahal: Youth is backbone of
the society and capable resource in the country that can provide
us with the dynamic transformation that we need. I did not say
that youths should not be involved in party politics. That is
the constitutional-fundamental right of the youth. What I mean
to say is that all politics is not necessarily party-based.
In developed countries, I have found people who are very well
versed in sports personalities and movie stars, but not politicians.
In Nepal, even school children know the names of the parties
and politicians, but not those in other sectors like the judiciary
or other constitutional heads. Hence, I want to urge all to
become more aware of their rights and responsibilities, and,
for this, you do not need to be involved with one or the other
party. We see that people are more interested about political
news and views but not their political rights and responsibilities.
Kalpana shrestha (collage student)
: I would like to thank Mr. Shivaraj Dahal for presenting his
complete paper. I was happy to listen to your lecture. And,
this should continue so that it keeps enlightening people like
He has been successful to some extent in giving
an overview of civic education. New Nepal is not possible without
the participation of the youth. It cannot be conceptualized
without a youth movement. The energy of the youth has to be
utilized for New Nepal. But in reality the youth are divided
on issues of nationality, ethnicity and regionalism. Youths
are falling prey to distorted thinking. Different groups are
using the youth for their own purposes. This is unfortunate.
Ram Kumar Dahal: Popular revolt as
a term can be looked at from different perspectives. In our
context, the Maoists launched their revolt against the then
political system claiming to be working on behalf of the people.
Other groups too can launch similar political movements.
Regarding which political system is the best,
whatever the political system, if it benefits the most number
of people, it will be considered the best. Terminologies like
loktantra are hollow if they do not work. The system should
represent the most number of people and the most marginalized.
Regarding whether it is systemic failure,
we all know that the politics of Nepal is being remotely controlled
by foreign forces. The only question is whether it was our weakness
that invited their presence or was it their coming that made
us weak. But the fact is that they are prevalent.
Regarding the youth, we do not see political
patties, all of them, including more youth in decision making.
Bedraj Acharya : Thank you all for
taking part in the discussion.
Chairperson Tulasi prasad Niroula: The
80 invitees could not attend this function because of various
We sow a lot of seeds and only 75 per cent
germinate. Of them about 35 per cent may grow properly. When
they actually give fruit, about 10 per cent are successful.
If only 10 per cent of the knowledge imparted today remains
with us we will be able to create novel stuff in the future.
An Indian politician sent his son to study
in England after the Indian independence. He was not able to
get admitted to any school and found himself neglected by all.
This inspired him to become patriotic. You see that the Indians
today are very patriotic. Ram Dev is an example who is even
challenging the medical science.
We are grateful for NEFAS' decision to stop
at Kakarbhitta after such a long innings in the country spreading
such patriotic messages. Thank you all.