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Civic Education through Multipliers of Knowledge

Organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

19 October 2014 (Bhanu Higher Secondary School, Dandabazar, Dhankuta)

NEFAS with the assistance from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) conducted a seminar titled 'Civic Education in present context of Nepal' on 19th October 2014 at Bhanu Higher Secondary School, Dandabazar, Dhankuta. The seminar was chaired by Palak Bahadur Basnet, Chairperson of School Management Committee. Teachers, Social Worker, Journalist, Advocate, Politician, Youth and local inhabitants participated in the seminar.

Professor Ananda Prasad Shrestha, Executive Chairman of NEFAS, spoke about the works carried out by NEFAS in our society. NEFAS has been proactive in conducting such seminars, which bring the experts and local people together. These seminars are significant in gathering people's opinions about the goings-on in the country. Such programs are regularly conducted in different parts of the country so that opinions of people from different socio-economic and geographic backgrounds could be collected. He further added about the role these opinions could play in shaping the governing system of the country. First-hand public opinion garnered through such programs can be utilized during formulation of plans and policies at the country as well as local level. He also showered praise on FES for their relentless support to NEFAS for conduction of such seminars and interaction programs. It would have been difficult to organize this type of programs without the support of FES, he commented.

Chandra Dev Bhatta, Program Officer of FES, highlighted the objectives of such interaction programs. FES has been at the forefront in conducting social discourse among people from different walks of life. FES is carrying forward the innovative ideas of Friedrich Ebert, Germany's first President, who initiated the system of social dialogue for the advancement of a society. As we are a democratic nation, collecting people's views and opinions need to be the norm of the ruling bodies. FES is performing the duty for the betterment of our society at large, he claimed.

Our culture dates back to ancient times in its origin, Bhatta said. It is even older than the western culture. Unfortunately, we are deviating from our culture and adopting western culture, which is relatively new. This practice is blatant in the young people, who are being detached from their native culture and traditions. This can be detrimental to the society, so it is mandatory to educate these youths about our religion, customs and culture. We need to make them realize their roots and persuade them to act accordingly, he added.

Shiv Raj Dahal, young sociologist and program co-ordinator of NEFAS, presented the seminar paper at the program. His seminar paper revolved around the current scenario of Nepal's politics, youths of the country, and the need of civic education in the present context of Nepal. He spoke about the changes in the political system of the country with the passage of time. Nepal has witnessed a number of political turnovers in the past few decades. Stability in politics is a long held dream by the people, he mentioned.

Dahal condemned the conduct of political parties and said that they are responsible for political instability in the country. They are prolonging the declaration of Constitution and not putting an end to the political transition of the country. Although democratic and republic system have been established in the country, political parties are still failing to pay heed to the need of the people.

They are still busy with their personal matters, fulfilling their own demands, he stated. A bad political culture is being established in the country, he remarked. He further censured the political leaders for not setting an example during this transition phase of the country. These political leaders, who should have been close to the people, are in fact more detached from them. Such type of practice does not do justice to the core principle of democracy, he pointed out.

Youths of the country have been at the receiving end of uncertainty owing to the political turmoil, Dahal remarked. A large chunk of young population is unemployed, and the political parties at the helm are not doing anything about it. Political parties exploited youths in their political campaigns during elections, but did not care for them after the election. Unemployment is a burgeoning problem in our society, and the political parties who vowed, before the election, to eradicate unemployment are turning indifferent to this issue. As a result, these youths are being disillusioned from the politics of the country. They are moving to other countries in search of jobs, which is having a negative impact on the country, he argued.

Civic education is the need of the hour in our country, Dahal commented. Civic education is the means of educating the people, predominantly youths, about national as well as cultural values. Civic education leads to good governance, he mentioned. Dahal further added that civic sense is lacking in our country, so it is time to impart civic education to the people.

Without utilizing the enthusiasm and skills of youths, a country cannot march in the path of progress, argued Prof Dr. Ram Kumar Dahal. They are indispensable in the development of new, and possibly better, Nepal. Citing the example of Chinese government which encourages the youths for education and employment within the country, Dr. Dahal added that Nepal, on the contrary, encourages its youth to seek employment opportunities in foreign countries. This is a disgrace to our country, he pointed out. Youths need to be provided with practical education, he claimed.

The aversion of youths towards politics has resulted from the irresponsible behaviors of political parties, Dr. Dahal mentioned. Political parties fixate only on their vested interests. This is visible in cases like the nomination of Ambassadors, where fawning the political leaders, and not your competency, guarantees the post. Such culture is prevalent in our society, and is increasingly being flashed out. This type of proceedings sows a seed of hatred towards politics in the minds of young people. 'Politics is a dirty game' has been the catch phrase among youths, he remarked.

The time is appropriate for youths to take a lead in the politics, he stated.

Nepal's international goodwill has taken a beating because of our internal politics, he added. Nepal can do much better in the international sphere if good planning is done and actions are taken accordingly. That Nepal is the chair of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) speaks about the role Nepal can play at the international level. Sadly, Nepal is entangled in its internal matters and is not been able to free itself from it, he stated. An all-inclusive democracy is required in the country to resolve these matters, Dr. Dahal argued.

Economic system is instrumental in the overall performance of a country, claimed Prof Gunanidhi Sharma, former vice-chairman of National Planning Commission. Sound economic system consolidates other sectors of the country as well, thereby uplifting the whole country. So, Nepal needs to concentrate more on the economic policies and programs, he argued. Earlier, the state was responsible for the economic activites in the country. After institutionalization of democracy, economic system became more liberal, and the involvement of state on economic matters became nominal. The welfare state, which was in existence in Nepal before the democracy, gave way to the liberal system, he added.

Prof Sharma also mentioned about the concept of 'only money matters', developed by Milton Friedman in 1968. Friedman also developed market economy approach based on this concept.

These approaches permeated the economy of Nepal after the establishment of democracy in 1990, he pointed out. In the same vein, 'trickle-down theory' was also adopted in Nepal in the aftermath of democracy. This theory elucidated that if the overall economy of the country is enhanced, then the marginalized and poor people would also benefit from the enhanced economy.

The economy of Nepal post establishment of democracy was driven by these approaches, he commented. Nepal could not handle the inherent shortcomings of these approaches; as a result, the economic system went astray and has still not found its way, he remarked.

The concept of globalization also hampered the economy of our country, he said. National economy became second fiddle to the global economy, and the policies were framed with the concept of global village in mind. As a result, decontrol and deregulation of market were adopted in the country. The role of state was also downsized. This system invited malpractices such as black marketing and corruption in the country. Moreover, the privileged people exploited the economy for their personal sake without considering the sufferings of less privileged ones. They framed policies that favored them, thus rendering the system biased, he argued.

Floor Discussion

Desh Bahadur Limbu, a local resident, expressed his views about the inclusion of 'Nepal Parichaya' in the syllabus. This subject holds more relevance in the present context, so it would be better to reinstate the subject, he said. He then spoke about the secularism of our country. Secularism should be irrevocably included in the constitution, he remarked. Giving undue importance to one particular religion does not do justice to people following other religions; so secularism is a must in a multi-religious country like ours, he claimed.

Sushil Ghimire, a local resident, spoke about the lack of better deployment of foreign aid and resources for something substantial. He lamented that the seminar paper does not mention about the ways of better utilizing foreign donation, primarily in rural areas. He also criticized the seminar paper for bringing out only the problems and negative aspects of the country. Focusing excessively on the negative matters and speaking only about them will frustrate the youths even more. Solutions to the problems of youths should have been included in the paper, he argued.

Yubraj Rai, a local resident, underlined the importance of minority communities of a country. An all-inclusive system needs to be developed, and the people from minority communities should not be ignored, he said. He asked Chandra Dev Bhatta about his take on the culture, religion and language of minority people.

Chandra Dev Bhatta answered that the culture and religion are the pillars of a country. A country needs to embrace all the culture of its people, minority included. Language and culture are the foundations of a country, he remarked.

MB Rai, a local resident, shed light on the education system of the country. There is no mention of education system of the country in the paper, he said. Drawing attention towards the dearth of vocational education in the country, he said that education needs to make a person self-reliant and self-employed. Education should not be about accumulating degrees and certificates, he remarked.

Krishna B Blom, a former teacher, inquired Prof Gunanidhi Sharma about his works during his stint as a vice-chairman at National Planning Commission.

Prof Gunanidhi Sharma answered that he intended to transform the Planning process during his stay, however brief, at National Planning Commission. He worked towards establishing public-centric and sound planning process in the country, he mentioned.

Rudra Basnet, a local farmer, asked about the do's and do not's during the formation of states. He further inquired about benefits and caveats associated with Federalism.

Gunanidhi Sharma answered that the essence of Federalism is equal distribution of opportunities to people irrespective of caste, gender, religion, geographic and socio-economic backgrounds.
Federalism should lessen the gulf between communities and bring them together. The current political development surrounding federalism issue, however, is more about polarizing communities and widening the chasm between them. This is against the objective of Federalism. People-oriented Federalism with equal rights and duties to people from all backgrounds need to be established in the country, and we all have to work towards it, Prof Sharma asserted.

From the Chair, Palak Bahadur Basnet gave the closing speech at the seminar. He showered praise on the organizing body for taking initiatives for such interaction programs. Such discourse and debate are the need of the hour, as the country is going through a transition. He also spoke about the tourism of Dandabazar and hoped that NEFAS and FES would show willingness towards this neglected topic.

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