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Civic Education through Multipliers of Knowledge

Organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

18 October 2014 (Radhika Higher Secondary School, Urlabari, Morang)


NEFAS in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organized a seminar on 'Civic education in the present context of Nepal' on 18th October 2014 at Radhika Higher Secondary School, Urlabari, Morang. Shiv Raj Dahal, young sociologist and program co-ordinator of NEFAS, presented a working paper on civic education and its urgency in the present context of Nepal. He spoke at length about the dire state of the country and how the politics has led us to this. He further added that the youths of country are turning averse to the need of the country, which could be detrimental to the country as a whole.

Political instability in Nepal never seems to end. Political parties are fully responsible for the political turmoil in the country, Dahal claimed. Blame game appears to be the new political ideology every political party is embracing at present, he remarked. He criticized political parties for their fixating on petty matters and lengthening the transition phase. They engage in altercation over smaller issues while keeping the important ones, such as federalism, on the backburner. They are also not willing to be flexible and come to an agreement. A regressive political culture has developed in Nepal, and this does not bode well for the future, he stated.

Political parties overthrew the monarchy and established Republic with the backing of general public of the country, he mentioned. They are letting down these very people by not functioning as per the mandate of the people. The Republic system is supposed to be of the people, but these political parties are isolating themselves from the public and are busy fulfilling their own needs. He added that people had pinned great hopes on them, but disappointment is only what they have got till now.

Sociologist Dahal also shed light on the state of youths in the country. Youths supported political parties during the People's Revolution and were actively involved in it. A few of them even sacrificed their lives. They were of the belief that their problems, chiefly unemployment, will be addressed after the institutionalization of Republic. Little did they know that only frustration would be in store for them in the days to come. Youths have become disillusioned with the politics and are no more concerned about the status quo of the country. Worse, they are getting engaged in nefarious activites, which can dismantle the social framework of the country, he argued.

Civic education is warranted in Nepal in order that the youths can be channeled through proper path, Dahal claimed. Their energy and enthusiasm should not go to socially regressive activites; instead, they should be directed for the betterment of the country, Dahal remarked.

Chandra Dev Bhatta, Program Officer of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), spoke about the programs conducted by FES and the underlying objectives. FES has been proactive in carrying out such programs which have been instrumental in awakening the conscience of general public. He also touched on the role of Friedrich Ebert, Germany's first president, in systematizing social dialogue and debate, which are inevitable for betterment of a society. FES is shouldering the responsibility of taking forward the legacy of Friedrich Ebert, he mentioned.

This type of interaction programs are a must in our society, argued Professor Ananda Shrestha, Executive Chairman of NEFAS. Such programs help gather first-hand views and expectations of general public, which could be utilized at the policy-making level, he said. NEFAS has been regularly conducting such programs throughout the country and been involving in social discourse with the local people of different regions of the country, he mentioned. He pointed out the guidance and support of FES for successful conduction of such programs. FES has provided full assistance to NEFAS for smooth conduction of such programs, he said.

Nepal has been an independent country ever since its unification, Prof Dr. Ram Kumar Dahal observed. The independence of Nepal goes further in the past than that of developed nation such as United States. Going by this fact, Nepal should have been miles ahead than its current situation, he stated. Nepal falls in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDCs); in fact, Nepal is the chair of LDCs, he pointed out. Nepal could play an influential role in UN if the country's diplomacy and political situation are improved, he argued. But sadly, the country's politics is taking turn for the worse, and disagreement among political parties is the norm of the current politics of Nepal. This has led to defamation of Nepal in the international forum, he claimed. There is a dearth of competent and eligible people in politics, diplomacy and bureaucracy; as a result, the incompetent people who are currently in the leadership positions often bring disgrace to the country, he remarked. He quoted Aristotle's 'Politics is a master science' to highlight the role politics can play in making or breaking a country.

There is a need of civic education in the country, he said. The political parties are feeding their youth cadres with their political ideologies, making them loyal to their political parties. This is not good for the youths, who are the pillars of the country. We need to impart them civic education, one that makes them good citizens of the country, he maintained. He echoed Mao's 'The youths are the rising sun' to underline that the success of a country rides on youths.

We ourselves are responsible for our current situation, Professor Gunanidhi Sharma, former vice chairman of National Planning Commission, said. Prof Sharma spoke about the economy of the country and highlighted the substantial role economy plays in overall development of a country. Politics begins where economy ends, so betterment of economy needs to be our primary concern, he argued.

We can achieve a complete turn-around in socio-economic progress within ten years if we become sincere in our approach, he stated. The tardiness in Nepal's progress stems from our insincerity towards our work, he claimed. Annual business loss appears to be same every year with not an iota of improvement. Similarly, national budget has stagnated for the last few years. Economy should be in line with the population and people's expectation. While the population is continually on the rise, the economy has failed to do so. Economic growth rate of Nepal is 4.5 percent, which is roughly where (3-4 percent) the economic growth of Nepal has frozen in the last 30 years. Although life expectancy has increased to 69 signifying an increase in quality of life of people, there is a huge disparity in it, he clarified.

Industrial sector of Nepal is in a serious crisis, Prof Sharma added. There is little domestic production of goods, and most of our needs are fulfilled by foreign-manufactured products. We have to rely on other countries to run our economy, he mentioned. Nepal imports most of its basic requirements as well. At the same time, the number of exported goods from Nepal is decreasing.

Trade liberalization has been implemented in Nepal without proper study and preparation; as a result, we are facing this unfavorable situation, he claimed. Earlier, Nepal was a welfare state, and the onus of safeguarding and smoothly running different sectors was on the state. After the establishment of democracy in 1990, liberalization was ushered in. Unlike the expectation, it brought with it disorderliness and irrationality. While the state loosened its grip on various sectors, the private sector also did not come forward. As a result, the country lost its way and has not been able to find a direction. Malpractices such as black marketing and election-centric politics have prevailed in the country, he commented. He further added that these are the repercussions of unmanaged capitalism.

Nepal's industrial resources and export policy revolve around India. Trade share of Nepal with India, which was once 28 percent during Panchayat system, has skyrocketed to 90 percent. India has the first say in Nepal's industrial resources as well as water resource. This is the result of 1950's treaty between Nepal and India, which has had a detrimental effect in the progress of Nepal, he claimed. Even the agriculture sector of Nepal has suffered because of India's intervention, he said.

Nepal's economy is, to some extent, held by the remittance and foreign donations. Gulf countries are inundated with Nepali workers who, in the lack of employment opportunities within the country, have gone there in search of work. In the same vein, people from well off families have migrated to western countries. Remittance from these people is sustaining Nepal's economy, Prof Sharma pointed out.

Prof Sharma criticized that we are not focused on reality and are always willing to exaggerate matters. We talk about transforming the country into Singapore and Switzerland, but no one is keen on building our own Nepal first. This type of hyperbole does not bring any good to the country, he said. It is high time that we engaged in some serious deliberations about taking the country forward, he remarked.

Discussion

Narayan Chaulagain, a local teacher, lamented the present situation of the country. The country is headed for a disaster, he said. He inquired about the remedial measures for the malady the country is currently suffering from. He asked Prof Sharma about his works during his stay at National Planning Commission.

Bishal Dahal, a BBA student, asked Prof Sharma about his suggestions to the current constituent assembly. Young people are increasingly gravitated towards foreign education and foreign employment, which is a serious problem, he mentioned. He further asked about the ways to stem this brain drain.

Keshav Rai, Principal, Morang Model Higher Secondary School, spoke about the shortcomings in the seminar paper. The paper focused too much on civic education and youths. Civic education is equally applicable to people other than youths, so civic education needs to be imparted to people of all ages, he argued. He also highlighted the importance of ethics and ethical education.

Ethical education should not be discounted, he claimed. He further suggested that the states could be christened using numbers and alphabets.

Rajendra Paudel, a local inhabitant and political activist, criticized the paper on grounds of ethnic and identity based federalism. He also pointed out that the speakers talked only about the negative aspects of politics and economy of the country. There was no mention of ways of righting the wrong, he said. He also took a dig at Tribhuwan University and its professors and said that they are also responsible for bad culture among the youths. Politicians are not solely responsible for current situation of Nepal, he argued.

Mohan Khanal, a teacher at Bhanu Lower Secondary School, Urlabari, critiqued the paper and told that it gave cursory information about the education system of the country. The paper does not specify about the education system the country should adopt, he argued. Our education system needs to be more skill-oriented and technology-oriented, he commented. Our educating method, textbooks are rife with blemishes, he pointed out. He added that most of the problems of the country stem from political turmoil, so solving the political problem would have a good impact on other sectors of the country, he remarked. He also suggested converting the seminar paper, with a few revisions, into a booklet.

Bikram Ghimire, a local inhabitant, lamented small participation of youths. He also underlined that the seminar paper focused only on the problems prevalent in the country but did not mention anything about the ways to tackle them. He further added that the civic education needs to be imparted to the people at the helm of political parties and the government.

Rajendra Karki, a local inhabitant, shed light on the impunity for miscreants existing in the country. People who go against the law need to be punished without any exception, he claimed.
From the chair, Chandra Bahadur Rai, Chairperson of School Management Committee, spoke about the positives of the program. He expressed his thoughts on the role of such programs in the context of nation building. Such programs can be instrumental in shaping the policy of the country, he commented. He finally congratulated NEFAS and FES for the successful conduction of the program.

 
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