Civic Education for The
Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
21 September 08, Nijgad
The first seminar that Nepal Foundation
for Advanced Studies organized on civic education in 2008 was
in Nijgad, a small village that owes its existence, not to mention
its sustenance, to the East-West Highway that runs through it.
The locale is made up of people engaged in farming in the area
and is fast developing into an urban hub. Several schools in the
small town have adopted the civic education in their curriculum
and, hence, a suitable place for NEFAS to hold the seminar. Schoolteachers,
local political party workers, media persons and other personalities
of the town were invited for the discussions which would form
part of the input to the working paper on Civic Education for
the Young Generation. This series of discussion that NEFAS has
been organizing with cooperation of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of
Germany has formed the backbone of the civic education curriculum
The methodology adopted thus far has been
to organize seminars in places where civic education is taught
and seek comments from concerned stakeholders on the issues
facing the youth today and ways to turn them into responsible
citizens. These comments help as further inputs to the working
papers presented at the event. In Nijgad, Shivaraj Dahal presented
the paper on civic education and Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal on the
various dimensions of democracy. These presentations came immediately
after Executive Director Ananda Srestha welcomed the participants
and briefed them on NEFAS activities. He requested them to come
forth frankly with their views so as to enrich the presentation
that were going to be made. Shivaraj Dahal's paper talks about
the eroding faith in the public space among politicians, a bad
example for the younger generation. This is not only making
the younger generation a handy tool for any vested interest
to use them at their will but is also robbing the Nepalese youth
of all the opportunity that should be naturally available to
them. As a result, hey are turned into political cadres of politicians
too early in their life, those that escape that do not find
gainful employment forcing them to seek opportunities abroad
resulting in massive brain and muscle drain. This at a time
when the country needs their hand the most. The minority that
escape these trends are found in activities that are not socially
acceptable, e.g. drug abuse. His approach for a solution is
to educate the young about their rights and responsibilities
as a citizen and to train themselves for leadership roles that
is bound to be thrust upon them as they grow older.
Prof. Dahal on the other hand used the Handbook
on Democracy being distributed by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in
different parts of the country to explain the fundamentals of
democratic life. This is a vital issue for Nepal at the moment
as it not only is closely related to the subject at hand, viz.
Civic education, but also because of the fact that the nation
is gearing itself to draft the first constitution through a
popularly elected constituent assembly. It also fits in well
with NEFAS' own objective of carrying out activities that lead
to democratization and consolidation of democracy in the country.
Apart from the elements of democracy, the professor also explained
to the participants the hotly debated issues of federalism in
the context of local autonomy and good governance.
The participants for their part were more
interested in knowing about the current trends in democratic
thinking like the differences in the terminologies, for example,
loktantra versus prajatantra and the different kinds of federalism
being championed by the respective political parties. However,
many did talk about involving even smaller children in civic
education, not just the higher secondary level ones that are
doing so at the moment.
After the question and answer session, the
seminar ended with Shivaraj Dahal giving his vote of thanks
to all those involved in making the event a success.
Excerpt of the proceeding
Ananda Srestha's welcome address: Nepal
Foundation for Advanced Studies welcomes you heartily to this
discussion. Let me make a brief introduction of NEFAS. It was
set up in 1990 with an objective of conducting discussions on
relevant national issues. The modality we pursue has been to
take the discussion to different parts of the country. The discussions
that we conduct are recorded in book form. Around 40 books have
been published so far, many of which have been adopted as course
books in schools. In that sense, our objective has been met
so far. Today's discussion on "Civic Education to the Younger
Generation" is not a new topic for us, but a part of a
series of events that we have been holding in different parts
of the country. The comments generated in the discussions will
be an important input in the book that is yet to be published.
We think that the exclusion of the younger generation from leadership
roles in different aspects of public life has brought crisis
in the public affairs in the country. We believe that their
inclusion, their awareness, is a must for any kind of reform.
The presenters will highlight the issue of
civic education and talk about the democratic process in the
country. Please point out the weaknesses in the papers so that
we have a more mature publication when it finally comes out.
Shiva Raj Dahal's presentation.
Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation:
The topic I am discussing is nothing new. I am only trying to
repeat things for your discussion. Political education has been
taking its own course in Nepal. Political parties have been
doing things regarding this aspect as they see fit. But civic
education is different. Its requirements are not met by political
education. We see political cadres going diametrically opposite
to cadres of other parties leading to frequent clashes. They
do not even speak to each other in many instances. This means
that the two have not received any civic education. No organization
has been set up to take care of the issue-- to bring them together
where necessary. On the contrary, today, we are in such a situation
that if we do not forge a consensus to chart out the nation's
future course we are doomed.
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela championed
the ideas of economic development to downplay political differences
existing there. We must toe similar lines to chart a future
course for Nepal. Even aid agencies have been stressing on good
governance. And, good governance is based on accountability,
responsibility and transparency. Legitimacy of the government
that comes through an impartial election. Participation of all
the different groups of people are equally necessary in the
governance process. Rule of law must be enforced for any kind
of governance to occur, let alone good governance. Independent
judiciary is a must in a good governance. The public sector
must be managed efficiently. Democracy is indeed a rule by the
majority but the minority too should be respected. If that does
not happen, trouble spots appear. This is happening in Nepal
today and it is the result of disrespect to good governance
shown by the democratic governments of the past. The government
should treat all the citizens equally. That is why we mare talking
of inclusive democracy.
Human rights is an import aspect of a democracy.
The issue is getting widened today with international rights
conventions being signed by the country and the activists talking
about further rights, like right to development. There is a
need to accept international conventions when we need to be
a part of the international community. The balance of power
among the judiciary, the executive and the legislative must
be respected. Local governance must be strengthened. It has
been strengthened through consecutive acts and laws in Nepal.
We may need to widen the scope of autonomous governance even
further in the future. We are even talking of federal rule and
there is a lot to be discussed on the issue before coming to
a conclusion. An election process must be impartially conducted.
Democratic institution building should be given priority, the
civil society must be promoted.
We are currently talking about a federal structure
of government. It is a form of dual governance- the central
and provincial tiers of governance with clear delineation of
authority and responsibility between the centre and the province.
But I do not believe our political parties have done enough
homework on the kind of federalism that we want. Instead, each
party has come out with its own separate form of federalism.
The debate is about the amount of powers to be allocated to
the province as opposed to the centre.
Ordinarily, the foreign policy, monetary policy
and defence policies are the monopoly of the centre while the
other powers are left for the local authorities to exercise.
Our intention to discuss these issues is not to oppose federalism
but to try and prevent the weaknesses from doing any harm in
the future and ensure that all the holes are plugged. The principle
of federalism requires that it reserves the right of secession.
We need to discuss whether Nepal should or should not allow
this right to exist with the provinces. The right to self determination
does get a place in federalism. But where is the limit of self-determination?
Does it include the right to secede? We should be able to make
it clear that the right to secede should not be meant by the
right of self determination. It is time that we define it in
a way which excludes the right to secede. There is also the
need to address the issues of weakening nationalism and increasing
foreign interference. This should include a policy on the use
of foreign aid.
Sanu Babu Khanal: What is the difference
between prajatantra and loktantra or even jana ganatantra, as
we have been using different terms to denote democracy at different
Khadga Shrestha: The function could
have been more interactive with intermittent questions being
addressed simultaneously. You should not have left the commentators
for the end part of the function. The NGOs and INGOs appear
to be only using seminars and functions for their own ends,
but do they actually empower?
Durga Koirala: There are younger people
with whom you could have interacted more. Please do that as
young students need it. You have also treated us as students.
You could have let us ask questions during the lecture for us
to benefit more.
You talk of foreign employment. But why are
the Nepalese being attracted to it? You should have provided
employment alternatives before talking about discouraging it.
Shanker Chimauli: Please tell me the
kinds of governance and the kinds of constitutions that exist
in the world.
Binod Raj Naurali: How many countries
are ruled by the kind of federalism that our country is talking
about? Please also provide examples of the successes and failures.
It will give us a picture about the kind of federalism we should
Secondly, one of the reasons for the youth
being marginalized in Nepal is because of drug abuse and AIDS.
The Africans suffer from AIDS and the Europeans from drugs.
We suffer from both including alcohol abuse. How can constitutional
safeguards be built to manage these?
Shanker Chimauli: What are the fundamentals
of a state?
Khadga Shrestha: The role of youth
has been seminal in political movements. But the governments
have not been forthcoming as much with regards to providing
them the leadership role. Can NEFAS play a role in institutionalizing
then role of the youth?
Rima Parajuli: Why do you talk of only
the youth? Do you not need to include the smaller kids.
Sanu Babu Khanal: What constitutes
a citizen of the country? Please define. Only then can we talk
of civic education. Please also talk about the kind of agencies
that need to be set up to impart such education.
Gurnath Chaulagain: I think you talk
of discouraging foreign employment but at the same time also
talk of training workers to send abroad. I think you should
retain trained manpower.
The young generation has been at the forefront
of all political movements but has not been mentioned in the
paper. Please also talk of self-employment of the youth.
Nima Lama: You may already have your
own kind of federalism in mind. Please tell us.
Sanu Babu Khanal: Can we also use the
younger generation for economic development by extending your
own argument about raising their political awareness.
Madhav Kal:.The Nepalese go abroad
for study and remain there to work. If that knowledge could
be used for Nepal's development, we would have strengthened
nationalism. How do we stop this trend?
Ananda Srestha: We publish books and
it is for policy makers to study them and implement what they
see fit. We do not press the government to enforce our ideas.
We include your ideas as feedback and publish them with FES'
help. The publications are used by students. If the politicians
use it for their benefit, fine, but if not, we do not apply
political pressure for enforcement. The papers we presented
for a seminar several years ago were published. We found that
it was used as school curriculum without our doing anything.
Class 12 has been using it today. We began updating the book
using you comments. There are other books that are being used
by the universities as well.
We also have a mind to prod people to think
about the kind of Nepal we are going to build for the future.
We should remain vigilant even after elections. Let us be sensitive
to popular needs and let nationalism not be weakened. You also
have a role in raising awareness of other people that you meet.
The differences you are seeking regarding
loktantra and democracy does not exist. There is a connotation
of [a king and his] subjects when we use the word prajatantra.
What actually counts is an effective democratic process and
I agree that the seminar should have been
lengthened. But resource constraints also count.
Binod Raj Lauda: I believe that loktantra
came to Nepal via India. In India, it was Mahatma Gandhi who
talked about good governance to define it.
Shiva Raj: I have discussed the issue
with university teachers and I have not seen an6y difference
if the democratic process is followed.
Binod Raj Lauda: But loktantra is more
progressive than prajatantra and the former also smells of monarchy.
Durga Parajuli: The term came to hoodwink
the people as people were already fed up with the misdeed that
took place during prajatantra. Now we hear about state failure
and our political parties still lack vision and have not even
begun to talk about forging a consensus to develop Nepal.
Shiva Raj: Durgaji's question talks
about the flight of youth. There needs to be political stability
to do so. Tourism and trade and industry must be implemented
to provide them employment. Work permits, micro hydels, and
political empowerment helps.
A citizen must abide by the alws and keep
Gurnath Chaulagain: I understand that
there is no difference between loktantra and prajatantra. [Maoist
leader] Prachanda had warned that he would go for jana gantantra
if he was angered by the NC and the UML.
Shiva Raj: I do not see any difference
even with jana ganatantra. But those who use the term should
Ram Kumar Dahal's reply
Let me tell you the difference between loktantra and prajatantra.
When the king became too active, some of the politicians started
talking about transforming the praja into citizens. They also
talked about absolute democracy. This was a roundabout way of
talking about a republic.
Durga Prajuli: Let me intervene. The
political parties should too learn their lesson while tainting
the names of others. Now they have begun to realize that the
real enemy has been India and America. The civil society too
should begin to disseminate the truth from now onwards.
Nima Lama: You talk of Indian expansionism.
Should not the civil society talk about these issues?
Ram Kumar Dahal: I agree. They do have
a role to play here. But let me clarify what I was talking about
earlier. The condition is such that we have a holiday on prajatantra
day and the loktantra day. I hope the day will come when we
will have only one holiday for both.
Secondly, there are different models of federations-
the US has one, Switzerland has another and India has something
else. We should also talk about the different kinds of presidential
systems. My complaint is that these issues are so huge that
we have not been giving commensurate time to discuss them.
I do not believe that the political parties
are willing to relinquish their powers for the benefit benefit
of the younger generation.
We are not here prescribe the model of federal
structure that we need. But we do not see the needed sincerity
on the part of the stakeholders. I hope they work on it.
We are talking about non-resident Nepalis
showing their interest in investing. But they do not find a
conducive atmosphere. They are our own people who have earned
money to and are interested to invest here, but we are not allowing
them. Forget about people going abroad and staying there. I
think that the civil society has a role here. Obviously, if
we send trained manpower instead, they would be better off.
Shivaraj's vote of thanks.