Civic Education in the National Context
One-day seminar jointly organised by NEFAS
12 July 2016 (Boharatar of Jhangajholi Ratamata
Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi
Our fledgling republic is still struggling to find its feet although
the new constitution has got off the ground. The residues of political
conflict continue to nag it. The political mistrust and polarization
has threatened to upend the grand constitutional project. The
political changes can be sustainable only if they are accompanied
by the drastic economic transformation. But, there has been inordinate
delay to accomplish the economic feat to the much exasperation
of the commoners. The ethno-centric and regional politics has
created dangerous cultural and ethnic chasms. The political leadership
needs to demonstrate its conventional wisdom to bridge the societal
gulf. It requires disseminating correct information to the public.
These socio-political maladies can be fixed only if the people
are equipped with the civic education.
The civic education has become an effective intellectual tool
to enlighten the people living in the nook and cranny of the
country about the burning subjects of politics and society.
It liberates the people from the infantile instincts and converts
them into jagrat manushya (awakened citizens). Only an enlightened
citizen stands up to the political and business chicanery. Corruption
is gnawing at the institutions from top to bottom. Quality education
and health services are beyond the reach of the laymen. Big
money and quislings hold sway over the politics. Deep frustration
is devouring the youth. The people crushed by the April quake
have not been fully assured of state's succours and support.
This pervasive quandary demands that the people rise to occasion
and nudge the state to be responsive to the people left high
and dry. It is only with the civic education that the people
come to the scene to sort out the pestering problems.
Against this backdrop, the NEFAS and FES Nepal office jointly
organised 'the Civic Education in the National Context' at Boharatar
of Jhangajholi Ratamata VDC of Sindhuli on July 12, 2016. The
people from different walks of life participated in the seminar
that underlined the importance of civic education to educate
the people about their rights and duties in the society. Economist
and political experts spoke on the topical issues vis-a-vis
the significance of civic education. Their views are as follows:
Dr Gunanidhi Sharma, former Vice-Chairman of Planning Commission
The free market economy has weakened the state. It benefits
only one section of people that becomes rich overnight. The
elite have captured the politics. There is virtually nil representation
of workers and farmers in the House. To the contrary, there
is the representation of three members from Golchha family,
one of the big business families. The common people are helpless
to influence the political process. We should follow compassionate
capitalism that ensures the people's rights to food, shelter
and job. Nepal is endowed with diverse cultures and resources.
It is the 17th oldest nation in the world this makes us proud
of being a Nepali. Over 250 years ago, Nepal's unifier PN Shah
had cautioned that the southern neighbour is cunning and the
northern one is cooperative. His visionary remark has been vindicated
as India imposed blockade on Nepal three times in 2027 BS, 2045
BS and 2072 BS. In 2027 BS, it announced the embargo after the
government removed Indian check posts along the northern borders
while the 2045 BS blockade came in retaliation against the import
of arms from China. The reason behind the recent embargo is
clear- Nepal outright turned down the India diktats on the contents
of the new constitution. India never wants Nepal to operate
its affairs of state on its own. India did not evolve itself
as a civilisation state but is obsessed with the colonial mindset.
The nations can be small or big but they are equal when it comes
to sovereignty, integrity and right to self-determination.
Despite having rich in terms of natural resources, we became
poor and are suffering from inferiority complex. The health
and education sectors are not people-friendly. Panchayat system
was autocratic but it public policy was good as it stresses
that the state had obligation to provide education and health
services to the people. The government's hand-off policy has
benefited private business and deprived the people of basic
services they are entitled to from the state. The privatisation
should be selective. It has become urgent to adopt corrective
measures to end this. The government should operate the public
entities. Some industries carry value of dignity and they should
be run under the state's protection. It is necessary to end
a situation in which profit goes to the private sector and loss
to the government.
The citizens need the state when they are victimised by the
natural disasters. The agriculture sector is grossly neglected.
As a result, we have to import foods from foreign nations. About
60 per cent revenue comes from VAT and customs. Hard-earned
dollars go into buying Indian currency. About 90 per cent of
trade is import based. How can we be secure in such a situation?
The neo-liberal economic policies have given upper hand to the
private sector, which is neither mature nor honest towards the
people and the nation. It should abide by laws and regulations.
Dons, mafias and profiteers are running the nation. At the moment,
the nation enjoys demographic dividend as it has 57 per cent
of active population. But, if this young population deviates
from their path, this will have long-term negative impact on
the nation. Here is irony also. The country receives remittances
from the poor people working in different nations. They send
money to support their families back home. Quite the contrary,
the rich families are selling their property and are leaving
the country with their money. The privatization has left the
students belonging to the lower class high and dry. It is creating
two classes of citizens, and this trend must be stopped.
Ananda Shrestha, NEFAS executive director
Over 26 years passed by since the restoration of multiparty
democracy and now the time has come to do soul-searching with
regard to the delivery of democratic system. If we go through
media outlets, we find them filled with negative news. Frustration
runs high. Democratic system is not bad but the politics has
failed it. The education system is creaking under the strain.
It is ruined by strikes and politicisation. Red-tape and bribery
has infected the administration while the health sector is run
by mafias and quacks. The time has come for the youth to assume
the leadership role to bring economic transformation.
CD Bhatta, FES Programme Officer
Freedom is very important but it should be complemented by
equality. The people in the seat of power always prefer freedom
but the poor people demand equality. There is need for ensuring
equal opportunities to the people in the field of education,
health and job. A society with a strong sense of solidarity
helps the people. Ours is the society known for his culture
of charity but it has been marketized. Those, who talk about
inclusion, are promoting exclusion at their home. Existing education
system has failed to link life with the world. It is neither
producing knowledge nor giving employment to the youth. Ours
is the civilisation state steeped in culture, language and knowledge
but we are in penury. It is moot issue that merits serious soul-searching.
Our politics discarded Raj dharma (the duty of the state). Nation
building requires sacrifice, discipline and penance. Everything
is in the statute but what we lack is the constitutional culture
and enabling socio-economic structures. Civic education promotes
positive thinking and teaches the people to respect labour.
Shivaraj Dahal, NEFAS Programme Coordinator
In order to build a strong and affluent Nepal, the youth should
be trained on the universal values of democracy and inspired
them to emulate them. This is because today's youths are future's
able citizens. The present education shapes their future. For
the state to be strong, all citizens should be conscious, active
and capable. Citizens are the members of the state and they
have both rights as well duties. The state and citizens have
equal duty to ensure the people's rights and make them responsible
towards the nation. It is not possible to write all the duties
of the people in the constitution. It is civic education that
makes the people aware of their duties towards the nation. It
enhances consciousness, wisdom and good socialisation of the
people. It empowers the individuals, promotes ethnic harmony
and religious tolerance and maintains class balance. It opens
up the horizon of the people. It converts the people into citizens,
enabling them to defy the political highhandedness and to do
away with the societal anomalies.
The political leadership should be a living embodiment of ethical
politics. A true leader has capacity to show the path to the
families, the parties, society and nation. The political leadership
should be honest, committed and far-sighted. We can import doctors,
engineers, pilots, scholars and heroes but cannot bring in leaders
from outside. The statesmen are born out of long exercise of
democracy. This requires theoretical knowledge, intellectual
skill, national thinking and pragmatic experiences. Politics
is a social service. Sometime the entire political realm has
to suffer owing to sleazy acts of one politician. It is wrong
to treat all parties with a same parameter. This will do injustice
to the honest political leaders and preclude the young generation
from joining the politics.
Roshan Pokharel, lawyer-cum-lecturer
Around 31 fundamental rights enshrined in the new constitution
are its positive attributes and needed to be implemented to
bring about changes to the life of the people. It has recognised
pluralism and religious rights. The shadow of politics must
not be allowed to fall on the judiciary. No any Supreme Court
Justice should be affiliated to the political parties. If so,
this will erode the credibility of court. All should abide by
the rule of law and no one is above it. There are two types
of democracy- social democracy and liberal democracy. It is
necessary for the parties to be democratised. The local election
has not been held for the last 18 years. The new constitution
has not well mentioned the provision about mitigating the natural
Dev Kumar Acharya, principal of Pragatisheel Higher Secondary
Our district is like a shadow under a lamp. It was ahead in
the education field in the previous generation. In the past,
parents passed down knowledge to their offspring. Religious
books such as Vedas, Geeta and purans were sources of education
and ethics. The Macaulay education that entered the country
through Durbar High School produced the snobs, who treat physical
works disdainfully. There are many educated people but they
are lacking in skill. The technical education is imparted to
those, who flunked in the SLC exams. Education system should
teach ethics to the students.
Programme coordinator Arun Kumar Singh highlighted the objective
of the one-day seminar attended by the teachers, representatives
of political parties, local intellectuals, farmers and students.
From the floor
Ramji Rana Magar said that the organisers of the seminar
should incorporate the suggestions of the participants. Ram
Hari Dahal noted that the seminar informed them about the
anomalies besetting the Nepalese society. Our political system
is churning out discrepancies and it is necessary to adopt controlled
democracy to do away with them. Democracy does not mean chaos.
It requires discipline. Bal Raj Shrestha said that this
sort of seminar should be held throughout the nation. How can
illiterate individuals, who are lawmakers, frame the laws? Samiksha
Acharya, a student, underlined the need for expanding technical
education to create jobs. The poor students like me have no
chance to be a doctor and engineer in this country. Is education
the property of the rich? We have also a dream but the state
has shown a height of indifferent to the offspring of the poor.
Keshav Kumar Bhattarai said the civic education should
be imparted to the political leadership.
Dr Sharma's replies to the queries:
In order to change the system, the leadership should be bold,
committed and honest. We need the people's controlled democracy.
Elected members should abide by the code of conduct. Civic education
is necessary with the people keeping vigil on the activities
of the political parties. Young generation should join the leadership
rung to change the society.
Responses from Shiva Raj Dahal
Our education system is producing unemployed people. It is
wrong to adopt knowledge without experimenting it. Our examination
system is faulty. Our intellectuals are not connected to the
Chairman of Pragatisheel Higher Secondary School Management
Committee Chandra Bahadur Shrestha said that the teachers
should instil a sense of ethic into the students. We people
are to blame for producing bad leadership. We have been unable
to pick right persons to represent us in the parliament.