The student union elections of some 60 TU campuses, including the central campus at
Kirtipur, are to take place in three weeks. A new election timetable was published last week, after the elections that were to be held a few weeks back had been postponed, with the TU administration drawing accusations from several studentsâ€™ organisations that it had been partial to the CPN-UML-affiliated studentsâ€™ body. Whatever the truth, student union polls have long come to be associated with a kind of proxy electoral fight among the major political parties, because the studentsâ€™ organisations are in fact their student wings. The leadership of any political party has the authority even to dissolve the central executive committee of its student wing if it deems such a course of action necessary, as has happened several times in the past. The studentsâ€™ organisations therefore carry the political agendas of their parent parties and go along with their stances on the various issues of the day.
This explains why the studies at the TU campuses are often disrupted; sometimes one student
body goes into action, and sometimes another agitates. The reasons need not be compelling, because political motives guide them rather than educational ones. Those who lament over the deterioration of the teaching-learning environment in the TU campuses over the years should focus their attention on this major cause of politicisation of education. Those at the forefront of student leadership and the leaders of the major political parties should know better. They cannot have both; a trade-off is necessary. On the other hand, it does not seem realistic to expect the total absence of politicisation in the present political environment of the country. However, what can be expected is a conscious effort by those concerned to minimise any activity that will go to compromise the main goal of the higher centres of learning.
Unaffiliated students have a major responsibility, too. They should not stay away from the electoral exercises. Rather, they should cast their vote. And they should do so in the light of the past performance of the various student organisations at the head of union leadership. They should also look at the agendas and pledges of the competing studentsâ€™ organisations. The ones that focus more on the real problems facing the students should be kept particularly
in mind at the time of voting. To a certain extent, the saying that the voters get the leaders they deserve also applies to campus politics. If the students do not tend to vote again for those who have let them down, the studentsâ€™ organisations and their leaders will have no choice next time but to improve. The political parties, too, need to draw a line between education and politics, refraining from crossing it just to suit their convenience.
Otherwise, things will not improve. That said, however, one should not forget, for instance, the immense contribution the Nepali students have made for the sake of democracy, because no democratic movement in the country would have been successful but for their crucial role. Student politics and agitation need to be reserved mainly for such higher causes, not for petty interests of anybody.