To regain its lost glory, TU needs someone with a vision who can bring about the desired changes
Tribhuvan University (TU), Nepal’s largest centre for tertiary education, is likely to get its new vice-chancellor soon, may be even within this week. While the appointment should have been no more than routine that takes place every five years, the stakeholders, in particular the teachers and students, are keenly watching to see if the government can keep politics at bay in the process this time. As with all institutions in Nepal, university posts too have been awarded in the past to undeserving candidates based solely on their political leaning rather than academic excellence and administrative skills. Since the posts were filled based on the bhagbandha principle, good candidates with a proven track record of teaching and research excellence, and governance experience were simply bypassed. It is common knowledge that the heavy politicisation of the appointment process of university officials has severely eroded the quality of education in Nepal’s public institutions of higher learning. And the presence of multiple unions, belonging to the students, teachers and employees of different political hues, only adds to the disarray there. Discipline is sorely lacking in Nepal’s public educational institutes, thanks to the unions, as is evident by the teachers drawing handsome salaries there but showing no commitment to the institution’s academic quality.
With the TU vice-chancellor’s post lying vacant for over a month now, a selection committee, headed by the Minister for Education, Science and Technology, has recommended three names, namely two medical doctors and a former registrar at the university, and submitted them to the Prime Minister, who will now decide on the candidate. But senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr Govinda KC, a campaigner for quality medical education in the country, has already objected to the ongoing appointment process and has demanded that the government stall it immediately. The recruitment of university officials is not very transparent, and Dr KC has been demanding that it be based on the guidelines made in the report submitted to the government by a team headed by former University Grants Commission chair Parasar Koirala.
Tribhuvan University has a long history and owns some very prestigious institutes, such as those of engineering, medicine and agriculture. So if a competent person were to man it, the mess that it is in is not undoable. To regain its lost glory, it needs someone with a vision who can bring about the desired changes without being a tool of the government or the party in power. All three persons recommended this time for the vice-chancellor’s post seem competent in their chosen fields while also having the administrative skills to lead a complex academic institution. The prime minister now has the responsibility to pick the best hand. But merely picking the right man will not do the job. He must be given full authority and freedom to build an effective administrative team to attract top-quality faculty and students to stimulate creativity, research and learning. Only when this happens will it stem the tide of students who leave the country by the horde for higher education, which is a heavy drain on the national coffers.
Land for Dalits
The government has made the 17th amendment to the Land Rules, which have provisions to provide land to landless Dalits in the concerned local level where they have been residing. If it is not possible to provide a piece of land in their localities, the nearest local level may be selected for their settlement, read the rules, published in the Nepal Gazette on September 30. The Dalits, who occupy around 13 per cent of the country’s total population, are the most disadvantaged group who do not have enough land to support their livelihood.
A landless Dalit family will be provided with a piece of land ranging from 145 to 290 square metres in the mountainous and hilly districts, respectively and, 130 and 190 square metres in the (sub) municipalities and rural municipalities in the Tarai districts. An 8-member recommendation committee has been formed to conduct an inquiry to identify land for this purpose. Besides providing the land to the Dalits, the local levels, in coordination with the provincial governments, should also provide them with job opportunities there. Most of the Dalits have traditional skills in select professions, which can help support themselves provided that they are given a modern touch.
A version of this article appears in print on October 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.