Civic Education for the Youth
Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
5 September 2014 (Purkort, Tanahu) and 6 September 2014 (Mugling,
Ritu Raj Subedi
The Rising Nepal
The scenario of Nepal's prolonged transition is not rosy. It has
churned out many ills. Most of them stem from indiscipline and
indiscretion on the part of the minor and major actors. Although
new political values have not taken root strongly, there is no
any impediment to the movements and freedom of the people to pursue
the professions and business of their choice. While enjoying their
latitude, many have apparently forgotten the crux of democratic
system: With freedom comes responsibility. Since its inception
millennia ago, Nepal has been a duty-oriented society. But, come
modernity right-oriented culture has taken precedence over the
duty-bound social behaviours. This has led to the decline of civic
and moral senses that often inspire the people to discharge their
duties and obligations for the broader interests of the nation.
The protracted interregnum coupled with the state's inability
to meet the ever rising socio-economic aspirations of the people
has catapulted it into a perpetual friction. It is now on a
knife-edge balance. But, the likelihood of political disaster
cannot be avoided if the gambits and chicanery at the highest
political goes unabated. Informed, enlightened and moral citizens
can only check the society from descending into the total chaos.
This requires the people to be transformed themselves into full-fledged
citizens. This transformation is possible only when the civic
education is spread to conscientize the masses to realise their
bounded duty in the society. And if the youths are imbued with
civic education and knowledge, the outcomes can be effective
and outstanding. This can be one way to nudge the pugnacious
politicians, who often indulge in otiose rounds of talks, to
deliver on their promises. The time has come for the youth to
challenges in this critical phase of the constitution writing
and the restructuring of the nation.
Realising this humble responsibility, the Nepal Foundation
for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES)
launched a series of seminars on the 'Civic education for the
youth' in the different parts of the country. In the first week
of September, the NEFAS/FES team visited Purkot of Tanahu and
Mugling of Chitwan to interact with the locals on the burning
issues of politics, economy and sociology. The experts attempted
to describe these topics from the lens of the civic education
that is itself an all-encompassing discipline. A large number
of youths, teachers, students, social workers and leaders of
different political parties turned up in the one-day events
in two places. Economists, political scientists and civic education
experts shared their views and knowledge with the people from
cross section of the society. The lectures, comments and suggestions
sprang into local to national agenda. The discussions were animated
Overview of seminar held in Purkot of Tanahu
Local social worker Khila Sharma chaired the one-day seminar.
Local farmers, teachers, students, cadres and leaders of different
political parties, women volunteers and the people from different
walks of life participated in it. Resource persons from Kathmandu
presented their views on the political, economic and social
issues in a candid manner. Their opinions have been precisely
Neo-liberalism puts economy in a shambles: Gunanidhi Sharma
(Sharma is a former vice-chairman of the National Planning
Social anarchy and economic inequality are on the rise. Around
80 per cent people are not able to earn $2 a day. Neo-liberal
policies that the nation adopted since 1990 were to blame for
the appalling economic conditions. Neo-liberalists claimed that
it was not the job of the government to do business and the
profit-making industries were sold at the dirt cheap prices
on the basis of this flawed policies. Now almost all industries
have been virtually closed down and the prospect of job opportunities
is almost nil. Around 90 per cent of our incomes go to buy luxury
items. Our economic dependency has grown to the extent that
it may one day break down our society. Remittances sent by the
Nepalese migrant workers provide a lifeline for the national
economy. But, to the bewilderment of all, the elite and the
rich send money outside the country. What happens, if many migrant
workers settle there? This is a recipe for another round of
nastier societal conflict. The foreign dependency is now 70
per cent against 28 per cent before the advent of multiparty
Annually, 300,000 vehicles are imported and this number is
likely to double next year. Our hard-earned dollars go to purchase
petroleum products. Now our finance minister calls for opening
the import-substitute industries. We have earlier suggested
that the nation should not jump to adopt the neo-liberalisation
policy without proper preparation for this. We do not have goods
to import. The present generation, groomed in the consumerism,
is not able to lead the nation. The investors are putting forth
several conditions. We want both prosperity and future security.
This requires sustainable development. The nation needs honest
leadership but our leaders are corrupt. We should promote positive
discrimination that means to uplift the marginalised groups
without hitting other status of other advanced classes. Ethnic
diversity is the asset but it has become a liability. The marketisation
of society has disturbs its fabric. There is a tendency to earn
money by hook or by crook. The government's role is to facilitate,
support and stabilise, and it should create jobs. There is Rs
660 billion lying idle in various banks but we are seeking donations
to build a toilet at the Pashupatinath Temple. We are now selling
sands and stones, leading the nation to the possible desertification.
The government has surrendered to the crusher industries. We
want the kind of economy that will enable the nation to end
poverty. We have brain power and it should be utilised. We need
not to suffer from the inferiority complex. We are rich in the
natural resources. The new statute should carve out a new economic
model to develop an independent economy.
Entropy rules the roost: Ananda Shrestha
(Shrestha is NEFAS executive chairman)
In the political, economic, academic and administrative realms,
entropy rules deeply, generating widespread pessimism among
the people. We are not seeing order in any state institution.
Politicization and corruption have plagued virtually all organs
of the nation. Following the 1990 political change, there was
a big hope for development and stability but this hope has turned
into despair. It is a matter of shame that nowadays the country's
history and geography are not taught in the schools and colleges
as they have become commercial and are motivated by the profit-making
tendencies. We are producing the students, who have no sense
of history at all! Where does this trend take us? The people
want the kind of democracy that would bring prosperity and happiness
Economic equality strengthens democracy: CD Bhatta
(Bhatta is a programme officer at the FES, Nepal office)
The FES promotes the ideas of freedom, equality, solidarity
and social justice. It is involved in strengthening democracy.
Freedom for whom- the rich or the poor? It is the needy people,
who need freedom for securing their better livelihoods. But,
these days, vulgarity has increased in the name of freedom.
Even the political freedom alone is not enough to steer the
poor country like Nepal into the economic progress and prosperity.
Maximum liberty gives rise to anarchy. What the Nepalese want
is the economic equality that bolsters the foundation of democracy.
Ethical elements must be fused into the democratic system to
make it pro-people and functional. The western society is right-oriented
while the oriental one like that of Nepal is bound by duty-oriented
norms. This is why there is conflict between the local and western
values. Following the political change in 1990, the level of
inequality has increased as the modernity has bred more problems
There is a saying, 'too many cooks spoil the broth.' This also
applies here. In Nepal too, there are many leaders but there
are fewer policies. The civic education is necessary to enlighten
the people so as to check the erosion of socio-cultural values
in the society. It synthesizes between knowledge and science.
Education helps sustain democracy. The more the teachers raise
their academic standards, the more democracy is enhanced. But,
sad to say the problems lies in the education system that is
neither helping the graduates to get jobs nor wising up the
people to the reality of the society. A good policy is must
to revamp the education system that is creaking under the strain.
We have many leaders but not the policies. Ancient knowledge
and wisdom need to be preserved so they will inspire the coming
posterity to carry development works. This seminar promotes
the factors that connect the society.
Leadership lacks maturity: Dr Ram Kumar Dahal
(Dahal is a professor at the Tribhuvan University)
The political leaders lack maturity and tolerance. At the theoretical
level, the leaders are fine but when it comes to the practices,
they fail to prove their mettle. The first political generation
of the US made great sacrifices to make their nation. If the
politics and politicians become bad, all sectors descend into
chaos. There is apparent disdain for the politicians. The youth
have become disenchanted with the politics and politicians because
of declining democratic values and norms in the parties. The
politicians should try to be role model and the civic education
tends to create ideal citizens. The parties must gear up for
economic development to stop the exodus of youths towards foreign
nations. If they fail to grow economy, a disaster is unavoidable.
We, all, have to develop a sense of Nepali-ness and a strong
civic education should be promoted. Our foreign policies are
weak and our ambassadors to foreign nations have brought nation
into disrepute. We have no foreign policies but India has and
we are following it. This raises a pertinent question- Are we
sovereign people? The capitalistic notion is unlikely to foster
the feelings of nationality. Those lacking the knowledge of
history and geography are unlikely to love the nation. Without
sacrifices and penances, the nation cannot be built.
Civic education helps mobilise social capital: Shiva Raj
(Dahal is the NEFAS programme director)
Civic education has become a must in the current transition
to guide the youths to the right direction. It is a continuous
process of learning from the society and sharing acquired knowledge
with the members of community so that they can be rational,
progressive and independent. It enables us to mobilize social
capital and conscientize the masses about their rights, duties
and responsibilities. Civic education needs to be imparted to
the youth to press for writing the new constitution in time.
Samakalin Nepal, a book published by the NEFAS, is included
in the curriculum of the higher secondary education and taught
at the Plus Two schools. The book is based on the rigorous interactions
on the themes of civic education held in nook and cranny of
the country. In society, every member possesses knowledge and
wisdom, and the civic education seeks to imbibe them for the
broader interests of the community. The eastern civilisation
contains oodles of knowledge on yoga, meditation, discipline,
ethics and collective consciousness. Development does not mean
only the construction of roads, houses and bridges but it is
also about generating consciousness and spreading enlightenment
that enhance emotional and cultural heritage of the society.
We need the politics that connects the society. The civic education
promotes empowerment of the people and communal harmony. It
stresses on self-confidence, self-reliance, good-governance
and pluralism. It lays emphasis on social democracy.
Our agriculture is based on monsoon and civil services on
bhansun (unlawful requests to the higher-up to secure job and
position). The country lacks the pro-village and youth-oriented
planning and schemes. The cadres have political training but
do not have civic awareness. The agreements made in the time
of crises are hardly applicable and abided by their signatories.
This is a reason why the parties have piked out their commitment
made in an array of accords in the moment of political difficulties.
It is necessary to have inter-disciplinary knowledge but the
parties have neither absorbed knowledge nor do they impart it
to their functionaries. Nepal is turning into a place to experiment
the politics of different shades. Education is the spirit of
society and it must be practical so as to serve the economic,
social, cultural and spiritual needs of the people and the society.
(Dahal presented his working paper 'Civic education: the present
national context,' in the seminar)
Deependra Poudel, campus chief of Purkot Kalika Multiple
We were held spellbound by the thought-provoking speeches of
the experts. There has been no division among the local people.
They have unity and unitedly worked to construct the campus.
Altogether seven individuals put forth their views and comments
during the discussion. Their opinions are as follows: We are
still people, not modern citizens. In the villages, there are
children, who scrape a living by selling alcohol. How can they
enjoy freedom and equality? Corruption is rife and the contractors
and technicians embezzle funds meant for development. For example,
they spend just Rs 2 million for a project for which five million
rupees have been allocated from the centre. The fertile lands
have been used for the human settlements but these days the
villages wear a deserted look with most of the youth going abroad
for jobs. Hand in glove with the smugglers, the government has
adopted the policy of cutting down the trees and is earning
money illegally. Education is not free as claimed by the government.
The politicians are behind the plight of the nation. This sort
of seminar should be held for the politicians. There is a distinct
lack of planning in the state mechanisms. No any experts have
made their way to the list of 26 lawmakers picked by the cabinet.
Spouses, hangers-on and sycophants have dominated the list of
nominated. Around 4 million youths are outside the country and
this has impeded the nation's development. The youth need to
be the imparted practical education. Is that there are not any
leaders, who deserve to be cited in the seminar? Why do we all
the times quote the Indian leaders?
Responses from the experts
Ram Kumar Dahal: All stakeholders, including the government
and the civil society have their equal role to create an equal
society. If the state becomes strong, it will be easy to pursue
business and professions in the country. Let's foster positive
thinking. The politicians lack patience to listen to the genuine
complaints of the people. Investment made in education sector
yields outcomes late. The government needs to devise the youth
policy in a way that would deliver concrete results.
Shiv Raj Dahal: One is called youth not on the basis
of age. It is vision and thought that make one youth. Everybody
possesses knowledge and all should share it among the members
of the community.
Gunanidhi Sharma: The market-led growth often puts the
notion of planning on the backburner. The economic policies
pursued after the 1990 political change gave unilateral emphasis
on de-control, de-regulation and de-nationalisation. The time
has come to review these economic policies. Our development
framework is pro-market and pro-private sector oriented. There
is the monopoly of the private sector in the economy infested
with mafiadom, kickbacks and corruption.
Speaking from the chair, Khila Sharma Bagale said that
there is a need for all to be honest and responsible. The ideas
heard and shared in the seminar should be spread to the nook
and corner of the district. There is lacking a clear planning
in the country. This is a reason why the roads have made inroads
on the fertile lands where the concrete houses have been erected,
overshadowing the prospect of high agriculture growth. If the
planners fail to devise proper planning for the economic and
other developments, the people and the nation are bound to suffer
Overview of seminar held in Mugling of Chitwan
Bishnu Prasad Sharma, a resource person of a local secondary
school, chaired the seminar participated in by the people from
cross-section of Chitwan district though the locals from the
northern Chitwan dominated it. The attendance of the women was
remarkable. The local leaders and security personnel had shown
their curiosity about the topics and speeches of the seminar
that also witnessed hot and fervent question-answer sessions.
The title of the seminar was 'Civic education to the youth.'
Since its establishment in 1990, the NEFAS has been holding
seminars in the different parts of the country with a view of
soliciting the opinions of the people at the grassroots. Our
mission is to propagate civic education to the youths and other
members of the society. The culture of bhagbanda (sharing important
government posts among the major parties) has marred the efficiency
of the state institutions. Our nationalism is also becoming
weak. Leaders have failed democracy. They have indulged in power
The FES often puts emphasis on social dialogues among the social
and political players to strengthen democracy. Many political
movements occurred here in the past but the people could not
realise a true democracy. The weak section of the society demands
for economic equality while the strong pitches for democracy.
The tendency to talk about the political freedom but to intentionally
omit the agenda of social justice is wrong. Education aims at
buttressing the human civilisation. It should serve the life
and the world but it fails to live up to these stated goals.
Here the education system has merely pointed up inequality by
producing two different classes of people. The judiciary system
we are practicing has its origin in the colonial rule of British
Empire in India and elsewhere and it lacks practical relevance
because it is only the rich that can afford it.
Ram Kumar Dahal
Many foreigners hold their biased outlook on Nepal by virtue
of their ignorance of the country's history and geography. Our
politicians have distorted the definition of democracy by Abraham
Lincoln. It has been distorted from 'by the people, of the people
and for the people' to 'buy the people, off the people and far
the people.' It will be injustice to dub all parties immoral
and bad. There is no alternative to the political parties in
democratic set-up. It is true that democratic culture is sorely
lacking. It is the duty of civil society to guide the government
towards the right direction.
We are in the critical phase. The politics and economy are
intertwined. They affect each other. Now the government is weak
and the private sector is strong. Motivated by the profit-making
urge, the private sector has set its eyes on the natural resources
such as lands, waters, stones and sands. Agriculture contributes
35 per cent to the GDP while 65 per cent people are dependent
on it but it is not in the priority of the government. It has
now slackened. Altogether eight banks have Rs 1,000 billion.
The Nabil and the Investment Bank alone hold Rs 300 billion
and 200 billion. This is a sheer dichotomy. There is the flight
of the capital from the country. The lack of institutional infrastructure
remains a big problem. Until a people-friendly statute is framed,
the country will not see progress and prosperity. The constitution
will put a system in place. We need to build the labour-intensive
industries. The capitalistic system is so strong that it can
buy the politicians. In order to change the structure of the
economy, the political structure of the country requires a major
overhaul. There is need for redressing the ethnic grievances
but the idea of federating the nation on the basis of ethnicity
Shiv Raj Dahal
A militaristic culture has crept into the big parties. The
parties and their leaders have come under the influences of
foreigners' policies and Nepal has turned into battle ground
for the powerful nations. Therefore, the country has become
a place for the experiments of all political theories of the
world. The presence of the state in politics, society and the
market has become weak. In order to strengthen the state, it
must have monopoly in the use of force, implementation of the
penal system and the collection of tax. The first prerequisite
for this is the competent political leadership and the rational
citizens. The Nepalese have not yet transformed themselves from
people to citizens. Instead of identifying themselves as Nepali,
they are carrying the narrow regional, linguistic and partisan
identities. For democracy to be functional and sustainable,
the citizens must possess and foster following virtues:
1. Skill of decent socialisation.
2. National identity.
3. Courteous behaviour.
5. Rational civil commitment.
6. Committed to protecting national integrity.
7. Critical consciousness.
8. Collective thinking and civic skills.
Youth and politics
A person, whose youth has not gone off and whom oldness has
not touched, is a youth. The youth are the sources of social
power. They are the engineers of the construction of the society,
messengers of changes, hope of future and the partners of the
present. But, the youth have nurtured negative feelings about
the politics. The politics is itself not bad. It is not only
the system of participating in the government on the basis of
partisan competition. It is the master policy and it holds power
for the social transformations. It is a service to the society
so the youth need to get rid of the negative thinking about
politics. It is wrong to blame the entire political system and
the parties for the mistakes of certain individuals. The youth
should play their proactive role in writing a democratic constitution
so as to build a strong and able nation. For this, the expansion
of civic education is very necessary because civic education
helps the people to become responsible, rational, self-reliant,
moral and dignified citizens.
From the floor
Altogether nine participants, including Sujata Bista and Chandra
Mani Sapkota from the audience aired their views at the seminar.
Their views have been summed up as follows:
The youth are suffering from different problems in the absence
of right leadership in the country. The partisan sharing of
powers among the parties has hit the political system negatively.
It would have been better if there were also female speakers
on stage. Why do we need the state? Are there efforts to bring
back the 1990 constitution? Whether the character of state was
discriminatory from the past or it is the phenomenon of the
present? Is it that the seminar organisers are promoting anti-party
sentiments? The experts on the dais should answer these questions.
The seminar is very relevant. The civic education should be
expanded to the remote parts of the country. It is useless to
put forth the questions whose answers from here are impossible.
The seminar includes as diverse issues as of economy, politics
and sociology. The Nepalese living in Chadani and Dodhara VDCs
beyond the Mahakali River have become the victims of the government
apathy. Why does the government stay shtum about the plight
of these people? India is exploiting Nepal over 10 cusec water.
Anarchy has ruled the roost. The middlemen are active everywhere.
The 1990 statute had envisioned a welfare state. The privatisation
was adopted in haste. The private sector should also discharge
its social responsibility.
Shiv Raj Dahal
Our intention is not to condescend to the political parties.
There is no any political system that is better than democracy.
The seminar seeks to arouse the interests of the youth in the
politics. Politics is services and the real leaders are the
asset of the nation but here the leaders have become dealers.
We cannot import leaders from outside. Let's choose the competent
and honest leaders in the elections.
Nepal became weak following the Sugauli Treaty. The 12-point
agreement was forged outside the country and leaders are working
as per its provisions. The problems came when the secularism
has been instrumentalised, undermining the country sanatan dharma.
The rights of all castes and communities need to be secured
but the nation's religious heritage must not be damaged on the
pretext of implementing secularism.
From the chair, local resource person Bishnu Sharma noted that
the seminar had been immensely useful to the participants comprising
the teachers, local political leaders, woman activists and the
people of different walks of life.