At this current juncture, Nepal is in a critical phase. It is a sheer fact that, for the country to truly step up and meet the ambitions of this decade and those ahead, we need to ensure a civic renewal at all levels, starting by allowing the youth to thrive at the personal and professional levels while also becoming net contributors of civic purpose
In a recent advertisement for Global College, the renowned scientist and activist and Ramon Magsaysay Award Winner Mahabir Pun was requested an autograph by a group of students.
Pun asks them, "What's your ambition," and each of them replies by sharing their dreams.
Aarti, for example, replies she wants to become a doctor while one of her peers says he wants to become an engineer while another reveals he wants to become a scientist like Pun himself.
The first question by Pun is followed by another: "And what else?" All the students reply in the tune like "nothing else, Sir, only a doctor", with one of them saying "nothing but a scientist".
The commercial is effective in giving the idea that the students enrolling are really focused on their dreams that actually sound like realistic goals.
The key message is that determination, commitment and skills, in the right environment, will lead you to achieve what you really want. It is also a great way to promote science, as at the end of the advertisement, Pun pitches for youth's involvement in the field.
At the same time, I believe that is truly important to instill in the youth the message that pursuing an ambitious career should not come at the expense of contributing to the greater common good.
Obviously, it is taken for granted that embracing science, becoming a doctor or an engineer or scientist, like being dedicated to any other career in any field of study, at least on paper, contributes to the society and communities around you.
I am also confident that many colleges around the country are nudging and encouraging their students towards developing a strong sense of ethics centred on the common good.
The way they do it can truly make a difference for the future destiny of this nation. This is something whose importance not only should not be discounted but rather it is something that must be encouraged all the way.
Yet, all over the planet we have so many examples of extremely talented persons attending top learning institutions, that, more often than not, end up working unscrupulously just to pursue their selfish interests, at the expenses of the goals that would benefit the entire society.
At this current juncture, Nepal is in a critical phase.
It is not the threat of another lethal COVID wave or the political instability that keeps creating a deep sense of disenchantment about the future among the youth and other citizens.
It is a sheer fact that, for the country to truly step up and meet the ambitions of this decade and those ahead, we need to ensure a civic renewal at all levels, starting by allowing the youth to thrive at the personal and professional levels while also becoming net contributors of civic purpose.
You can start by facilitating a sense of greater understanding in what's going on around them, easing a deep reflection around the facts that happen.
For example, you can have a conversation on how social media can be extremely useful on so many fronts but also extremely effective at spreading disinformation and hamper the social fabric, starting by enabling disengagement and disillusion at the community level.
From enabling an understanding the issues the country is facing, you can help by instilling a greater sense of interest on the problems behind them.
You can do this by encouraging more reading and more critical thinking and self-reflection, an all-encompassing process, that,
done correctly and consistently, could lead to thriving forms of engagement across the communities.
Engagement can take many forms and shapes.
Living in a democracy, no matter how messy it is, is a great deal, and citizens, in particularly the youth, no matter their frustrations, should not take this for granted.
Moreover, at the global level, there is a discussion going onabout rethinking the relationships between the State and the citizenry, the so-called "New Social Contract".
The fact that things do not work perfectly here (by the way I am not aware yet of any industrialised and developed nation without a good deal of issues on their own) does not mean the citizens should give up on their country.
Providing excellent education and do all what you can at studying are among the best ways to build a greater nation.
Doing so without instilling a sense of civic engagement, something fuller and much broader than patriotism, something that is focused on selfless interest for the others would not do full justice to the essential role learning plays in the society. That's why civic engagement should be nourished at all levels of the knowledge creation journey, starting from daily discussions at home.
That's why volunteerism, one of the greatest platforms to experience it, must become a top priority for the government, and, hopefully, soon the new government will finally endorse the new national volunteering policy.
Certainly, as we know, having a policy in place, is not enough, but it's rather just the beginning of a campaign to promote active citizenship across Nepal.
All these are the reasons why, if I could suggest a way to think about a possible follow up to that commercial, I would propose a slightly different answer to Pun's "what else?" question: "A responsible and engaged citizen, Sir".
This is not only the best response that one of the greatest minds the country has ever had could receive but also the best answer to predict a great future for the nation.
Galimberti is the co-founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. Opinions expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appears in the print on July 26 2021, of The Himalayan Times.