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Seminar Report on Civic Education on Modern-State Building

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Rajapur, Bardiya (16-17 August) and Kohalpur, Banke (18-19 August 2011)


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office has organised two day seminars on civic education and state-building at Rajapur of Bardiya district and Kohalpur of Banke district on 16 and 17 and 18 and 19 August, 2011 respectively. The programme was attended by local political leaders, members of civil society, journalists, teachers, lecturers, students, civil servants (including security personnel) and other stake-holders of society actively participated the two-day seminar in both the places. There were over 90 participants in Rajapur and more than 100 in Kohalpur with significant number of women participants. The whole idea of this programme was to educate people's at the local level on the importance of civic education and its role in modern state-building. Civic education basically is a political education and there is a great deal of urgency to inform people about politics that too, democratic politics. Only a democratic politics can contribute towards modern state-building by winning people's confidence e on it which is at its lowest ebb at the moment. In Rajapur, the seminar was chaired by Bhumi Nandan Neupane of Amar Sahid Shree Dashrath Chand Higher Secondary School and in Kohalpur the programme was chaired by Hari Prasad Rawal of Bageshwari Higher Secondary School.

The proceedings

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal Office welcomed all the participants and highlighted objectives of the seminar. During his inaugural speech Dahal said underlined the importance of civic education. He said that the lack of civic education in our society can result in political anarchy. He further said that citizens are members of the state and by being the members of the state they enjoy certain rights from the state and also have duties towards it. That feeling seems to be lacking in our context both at the level of political class and at the citizenry level argued Dahal. The unaccountable politics is the product of this phenomenon said Dahal. Hence the biggest challenge that lies ahead of us is how do we introduce the culture of civic education in our political system, said Narayan Prasad Sigdel of Tribhuvan Higher Secondary School in Kohalpur. How can we contribute to our society without effectively despite our different political alienation with different groups and political parties said Hari Prasad Rawal at the concluding session. How can we build up common orientation towards state and society to translate democracy in a real sense of the term.

Speaking from the Chair Bhumi Nandan Neupane said that we don't know what type of state we wanted to have as yet and civil society groups have not initiated debate to this end. Their contribution towards peace building and state building is meager said Neupane.

Three papers were presented in both the places wherein Dev Raj Dahal presented on Challenges of State-building in Nepal, Lal Babu Yadav - Associate Professor of Political Science a the Tribhuvan University spoke about Constitutional crisis in the country and highlighted on federalism, electoral system, and form of government and finally Chandra D Bhatta spoke about democracy and its elements. He also highlighted why democracy works in some countries and not in others.

Discussion

Speaking from the floor Chhabi Bhatta of UML asked whether federalism is suitable for Nepal or not - if the answer is yes - what type federalism would best serve our interests.

Shiv Ram Regmi was of the view that we do need federalism and he blamed that human rights organisations do not speak the truth.

Jaya Raj Ojha inquired whether we can move ahead without written constitution or not - if the answer is yes - how we strike a balance between executive, judiciary and legislative. He also inquired whether NGOs and INGOs should involve in the issues related to human rights or not. He also inquired how we can civilise our culture which is getting polluted. The syndicate system that is rampant in the far western part of the Nepal is against democratic norms. He further said that our society is not barbaric. We built our state by respecting all ethnic groups. If you look out beyond Nepal - the same is not the case. For example - Europeans built American by eliminating ethnic groups who were 12 percent of total population said Ojha.

Bhumi Nanda Neupane asked how we can move now. We have 601 CA members (whom we elected) shall we own them or disown them.

Tirtha Raj Shahi opined that not even a single word was uttered about federalism during the movement of 062/063 and later political parties carried the agenda of federalism which was, no doubt, floated by India. He stressed that we need to hold referendum on the issue of federalism, monarchy and secularism. The increase in the number of municipality by the UML government is nothing more than a populist agenda. This was not done to serve people and facilitiate service delivery but to hijack citizens' right.

Chhetrapal Chaudhary, on the other side, was of the view that the issue of federalism was raised by Maoists long time ago when they talked about ethnic empowerment.
Fula Ram Sunar wanted to know the situation of dalits in the federalism and he also enquired how we can judge democracy - the right answer, perhaps, is how the government in power behaves with the parties in opposition.

Bishnu Adhikari asked how we can recognize 'statesman'. If Nepal remains a secular state - what would happen tomorrow asked Adhikari.

Nav Raj Khanal asked how the agenda of secularism came into being ? We need to know about it.

Sabitri Pur (Teacher) asked what role women are played during state-building in other countries. Ravi Raj Sharma inquired why civic education was removed from our syllabus. Kirpa Ram Tharu asked how we can change our education system which is not scientific and vocational. Bishnu Thapa inquired whether we can select leaders from community or not.

Kapil Neupane asked what is the role of youth in state-building ? Where is the space for them ? There are no opportunities created for them over the years, as a result, majority of the youth are forced to leave the country. We need to modernize our agriculture and make it a driving force whch can alone create opportunity for the youths.

Babu Ram Adhikari (Teacher) said that we can still play positive role in a society despite surfacing of so many discontents after 2046 B.S. Democracy should provide space for everyone and we need to civilise our democracy and actors directly involved on it (the people at large).

Rekha Sharma inquired how one can manage the governmental educational institutions which in doldrums. Ram Prasad Chapagai asked how do you define civic education and modern state, whether it can really contribute towards state-building or not. What type of civic education can change our society for the betterment? Whether 601 CA members are aware of about civic education or not ? There are more than 40 lacs Nepali working abroad can civic education stop them enquired Sharma.

Gynaeshwor Sharma was of the view that state-organisations need to be restructured and there is an urgent need for that without doing this there is no way that we can change our lethargic system on which the current state stands.

Hari Bhakta Adhikari asked what human right is. How can we strike a balance between class and democracy? Who should rule, that is, which class can bring political stability - proletariat or the bourgeoisie? Who should have ownership over the land - those who till it or who own it?

Bodh Raj Aryal asked how you differentiate prajatantra from Loktantra and how we make NGOs and INGOs more transparent which has not been the case at the moment. Kapil Neupane also asked how can we create compromise in ideology?.

Yuba Raj Paudel asked what is the different between pluralism and multiparty system - can they go hand-in-hand or not.

Conclusion

The programmes at the both places received good response. In fact the importance of civic education and its inclusion in school/college curriculum is must. Civic education can create the sense of spiritualism in society and which can alone unite Nepali state in a single thread. The discontents that are seen in different domains of politics need timely address by the political class. Failing to do so will create further fissures in our society. There is no way that we can have equal society but what we can do is create equal opportunity for all. That said democracy should work for all equally.

 
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