Educated illiterates : Wrong people at the helm

Nepali leaders seem totally ignorant of their duties and responsibilities. Neither have they been able to take the country on the path of prosperity nor provide any concrete vision for the future. The resultant brain drain over the past several years and increasing out-migration of labour force can be attributed to their myopic vision.

I like to call these leaders educated illiterates, those with impressive academic

credentials but no idea about the job they are doing and the impact that it can have

on national life. The lack of know-how to undertake one’s responsibilities is conspicuous in most Nepali offices where people are employed on the basis of their ‘connections’ rather than merit. In this context, isn’t it utopian to expect our country to compete with others in areas that expedite development and progress? Simply knowing how to read and write is not literacy in today’s era of knowledge economy. What we have is a bunch of “educated illiterates” ruling the country who hardly have any practical knowledge to lead the country in these uncertain and turbulent times.

Take the example of the recently elected constituent assembly members and those who will be nominated to Constituent Assembly in the near future. Of course, they have people’s mandate to make a new constitution, but are they knowledgeable about what the nation

expects them to do, and how? Unless they are conversant about the needs of the nation, especially those of the underprivileged and downtrodden communities, can we expect this lot to draft a sound constitution? Moreover, is it not important for the constitution makers to be aware of the essential tools and technology of constitution making? If not, the constituent assembly will face the danger of being dominated by a few elites. Another danger

would be that the valuable time of the constituent assembly will be consumed by unimportant agendas.

Let us talk about the builders of the nation: the professors, teachers and students. What do professors do these days? Most of them align themselves with political parties in order to extract some personal advantage while setting aside the institutional norms and neglecting teaching, their primary responsibility. How many of them have the capacity to impart up-to-date knowledge to their students through research activities? Not many, I would imagine. The ritual teaching method that entails reading out out-dated notes in classroom will not do justice to the country in general and to her future nation-builders in particular. Have the universities made any effort to upgrade teachers’ knowledge so that they can be fit in this area?

Or have the professors taken the trouble to keep themselves updated through self-development activities? If not, they too become educated illiterates. Similarly, what do student unions do? Affiliated with one or other political party, they operate in educational institutions as mouthpiece of political power centres. How can they be termed literate?

Look at the schoolteachers. Their mindsets are no better than the politically inclined professors. Instead of utilising their trade unions to upgrade teaching facilities and methods, they have been instrumental in raising issues that are harmful to the educational establishment. This is evident in the deteriorating quality of school education in Nepal. A trade union is not bad in itself since it helps the concerned protect their rights. But how palatable is it that they are divided into several political factions all within the same establishment? Isn’t this enough to name them as educated illiterates?

Think of the intellectual capacity of those who run the government which is no better than their bureaucratic counterparts. Their only job, it seems, is to provide employment to those who hang around regardless of the latter’s capabilities or educational backgrounds. It is a common sight to see government employees lolling about or sunbathing while at duty. Even in universities, one can see hundreds of staff doing nothing except signing the register, after which they conveniently head home. Likewise, on the one hand, illiterate executives are deploying their cadres to places where they do not fit and on the other, those deployed are getting salary for doing little. Both of them are educated illiterates. The bureaucrats who advise the executives to do so also fall into this category.

There are thousands of such examples that prove educated illiterates control us. Neither do they listen to those who are really educated nor do they have any idea of their own to lead the nation. Let the government focus on the tasks at hand with a motto of “right person in right place”. Moreover, the government should upgrade knowledge level of the existing educated mass and see to its optimal utilisation. Until Nepalis revolutionise their mindsets, the nation will continue to be in a quagmire of poverty and unemployment.

Dr. Wagley is an educationist