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Civic Education through Multipliers of Knowledge

Organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

20 October 2014 (Ramsita Higher Secondary School, Bhimpur, Sunsari)


NEFAS conducted a seminar and interaction program on 'Civic Education in the present context of Nepal' on 20th October 2014 at Ramsita Higher Secondary School, Bhimpur, Sunsari. NEFAS was assisted by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) for conducting the program. The program was chaired by Jagat Bahadur Bhattarai, Chairperson, School Management Committee. Social worker, entrepreneur, Teachers, Politicians and local people participated in the seminar and interacted with the experts from NEFAS and FES.

Professor Ananda Prasad Shrestha, Executive Chairman of NEFAS, welcomed the participants to the program and inaugurated the program with brief introduction of NEFAS and its works. NEFAS has been conducting such programs in different parts of the country so that first-hand opinions of people could be gathered. This information can be fed to the policy makers and this could result in formulation of policies and plans catering to the need of people, he said. He also praised the tireless support provided by FES. FES has been the guiding factor for NEFAS and for successful conduction of such programs, he remarked. As Nepal is a democratic country, views and expectations of people are paramount for taking the country forward. NEFAS is justifying the democratic system of the country by garnering their ideas, queries and beliefs, he mentioned.

Chandra Dev Bhatta, Program Officer of FES, gave the introduction of FES and spoke about the underlying objectives of FES and such programs. Friedrich Ebert, Germany's first president, commenced the method of discourse among people to gather their opinions and using those opinions to advance the society and country, he mentioned. FES runs on the same principle of social discourse and debate and strives to assimilate the expectations and views of the people. These opinions can be more than useful during policy-level decision making. FES also endeavors to bring the policy makers and the general people together during such programs in order to establish a direct communication between them, he claimed. Bhatta further added that policy-makers and public alike reap benefits from such programs.

Shiv Raj Dahal, young sociologist and program coordinator of NEFAS, presented the seminar paper at the program. His paper dealt with the ongoing political instability and the plight of youths in the country. Nepal has undergone a myriad of changes in the last few decades, more so in the political set up of the country, he pointed out. Yet, the country is still languishing and has not undergone rapid socio-economic progress. All those changes have not borne fruit so far, he remarked.

Political parties of Nepal are responsible for leading the country down the wrong road, Dahal mentioned. These political parties stood in solidarity for overthrowing the monarchial system of government, but has since diverged and often confronted each other. They have not reached a consensus on crucial matters of new constitution, and have been lengthening the constitution drafting process, he remarked. They have been driven by their desire to remain in power and fulfill their petty needs, he commented.

Young Sociologist Dahal then spoke about the youths of the country. Youths have been pivotal in People's Revolution of 1990 as well as of 2006. A few of them even lost their lives for ushering in Democracy and Republic in the country. They were driven solely by the desire to uplift the country and take it into the path of development. But, their dreams have not yet been realized.

Worse, these youths have been sidelined from the mainstream economic and political system. Their needs and expectations are largely unattended to, he pointed out. He condemned the political parties for not paying heed to the demands of youths. These political parties exploit youths in their political campaigns for success in elections. Their success in election rides on the youths, so they lure youths into their campaigns with promises for their better future. These promises vanish into thin air after the culmination of elections, he asserted. Youths have been misled by political parties. He minced no words in his criticism of political parties for misappropriating skill and enthusiasm of the youths for their selfish needs.

Youths are turning indifferent to politics, Dahal stated. They are migrating, temporarily or permanently, to foreign countries in order to secure their future. Although the country benefits from the remittance from these people, the money is inconsequential compared to what could have been done in the country had they stayed and worked here. There is a serious problem of brain drain in the country, he remarked. This unfortunate situation has befallen the country because of irresponsibility of political parties, he argued.

Civic education instills in people the attachment to one's country and countrymen, Dahal pointed out. It is required in the present context of Nepal, he claimed. Dahal further highlighted the significance of civic education for building of a nation. Civic education encourages the people to do something for the country and be responsible citizens, Dahal remarked.

The politics of Nepal has had a roller coaster ride, argued Prof Dr. Ram Kumar Dahal. Sweeping political changes have been the norm of Nepal's politics. Rana regime, Panchayat system, Democracy and Republic: Nepal's politics has come a long way in the last few decades. Despite such changes, the essence of politics and governance has not been fulfilled. Although the power has gone to the hands of public, the political leaders are still ignoring the public and their needs. Political leaders and public are still not connected, and there is a considerable gulf between them, he argued. The political culture in Nepal is not a healthy one, and this has been responsible for the sluggish, if any, growth of the country, Dr. Dahal mentioned.

The potential of Nepal in the international arena has still not been utilized, he said. Nepal is the chair of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and it has been bestowed with great responsibility at the international level. But the country has not left its mark. On the contrary, Nepal's goodwill has taken a beating at the international level owing to the appointment of incompetent and ineligible people. The nomination of people to responsible positions in Nepal is not merit-based; instead, there is political involvement in the selection process. Politics has encroached upon the bureaucracy of the country, he remarked. Civic education is a must in the current context to dispense with the bad culture of politics, corruption and irresponsibility, he commented.

The economic sector of a country should not be overlooked, argued Prof Gunanidhi Sharma, former vice-chairman, National Planning Commission. Economy of a country dictates the fate of the country, he said. We need to concentrate more on framing and implementing sound economic policies and programs. By consolidating the economic sector, we can drive the overall country in the path of progress, Prof Sharma claimed.

The economic system of country prior to 1990 was controlled by the government. Government was responsible for ensuring a stable economy in the country. After the institutionalization of democracy in 1990, the grip of state on economic matters loosened. The economic market became liberal and competitive. People and their economic activities determined the economy of the country post-1990. Although this empowered the people, this empowerment came with a heavy price of economic malpractices. Corruption and black marketing pervaded the economy of the country, Prof Sharma pointed out. The economically privileged people manipulated the economy for their benefits; as a result, the chasm between rich and poor, privileged and underprivileged, and socially forward and backward widened. As the country's influence over the economy was weakened, it could not do anything to make amends. The economy thus went downhill and has not recovered till date. This is largely because of our unpreparedness while liberalizing the economy, Prof Sharma mentioned.

Globalization has also played its part for ruining the economy of Nepal, he remarked. The concept of world as a global village undermined the economic programs targeted at national economy. National economy gave way to the global economy, which affected economy of countries such as Nepal, he stated. He further commented on the growing tendency of adopting western culture and principles. Our own social mores and economic principles are better, but we are turning averse to them. Ayurveda, Yoga and Chanakya ideology, among others are our creations which have passed the time test. But we have long forgotten their inherent benefits, and are gravitating towards the western principles. Our life style has increasingly been westernized, he asserted. This practice will not serve us well in the long run, Prof Sharma remarked.

Discussion

Dukha Ram Chaudhary, a teacher, opined that moral education is also required in conjunction with civic education. We need to inculcate moral values in youths, so an education having civic and ethic values is the need of the time, he remarked.

Upendra Pashwan, a local inhabitant, recommended that this civic education be imparted to the political leaders and policy makers. They are the ones who are in need of civic education, as they are being detached from the needs of the country and its citizens, he pointed out.

Narad Luitel, a teacher, spoke about the practice in our society of considering the rich and privileged ones as cultured. Rich determine the do's and do not's, moral values, and etiquettes in a society, he asserted. This is not a good tradition, and this needs to be changed, he remarked. Shedding light on the agriculture and private sector, he said that reforms are required to bolster agriculture in the country.

Surya Narayan Mehta, a local inhabitant, spoke about the caveats of civic education. After the introduction of formal education, people started the practice of nefarious activities. As the level of knowledge and skill of people enhanced, they started indulging in social malpractices, he opined. He feared that the incorporation of civic education in the education system could result in more haphazardness and recklessness in the society. The more the people become well-versed with social, ethical and civic values, the more they transgress them, he argued.

Mahesh Prasad Raya, a local social worker, shed light on the underbelly of criminal-run politics of our country. The politics revolves around the rich and powerful, he remarked. He also suggested that such programs be conducted regularly, as a one-off program is unlikely to make any difference to the status quo. He expressed his views about the nature of civic education to be imparted to the people. Civic education should be in the form easily graspable by the people, he claimed.

From the chair, Jagat Bahadur Bhattarai expressed his gratitude to NEFAS and FES for conducting the program at Bhimpur. The program brought together experts on politics, economy, and policy making and local people. He added that the local people benefitted immensely from the program. The program has been a success, he concluded.

 
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