Student election More political, less academic
As the future of the nation, students should be allowed to have their own associations to avail of quality education. They are vehicles for development as they make leaders of a country aware during periods of crisis. In Nepal, too, students have played significant roles in establishing democracy by participating in several major movements in the past. Students have also been found engaging in useful activities to protect the nation by protesting against unnecessary external interference. Nepal is vulnerable in this regard, and students should be the ones to raise their fingers against it.
In recent years such interference in Nepali politics has been particularly obvious, whether it is through diplomats or dignitaries from other countries. Students are trusted by the common people to raise the day-to-day issues of their pain to pressurize the government to fulfill their needs, thereby, in playing creative roles in advancing development of a country.
In Nepal there are as many student wings as there are political parties. Neither are they found striving to improve the ever deteriorating quality of their own educational institutions, nor are they concerned about the injustice meted out by the State to its people. Where are they heading? This has been a crucial question these days. They have become mere flag bearers of the leaders of political parties. Their colour is no more academic but that of partisan politics.
The race to win the election among students is now a matter of life and death for the political
leaders, not the students. Doing politics is not bad if it does not cross the limit. Ninety percent
of the students in higher education do not get quality education, and there is a question mark about the quality of teaching. Furthermore, academic calendars are not maintained, examination results do not come in time, and students need to spend at least one year extra in order to complete their degree programme. The poor condition of libraries defies description, and academic and administrative matters in the universities and colleges are deteriorating.
These should be the concerns of the student unions rather than other issues they are now involved in. They can also raise their voice against the long hours of load-shedding, the problem of drinking water, the misutilization of the taxpayers’ money in extravagant activities of the government, the skyrocketing market price. etc. While observing the student election activities so far, these agendas are not in their purview.
Rather they are found slandering each other and asking for votes, as if they are going to become the future prime minister. The political leaders, on the other hand, see no places other than the academic institutions for their dirty politics. They incite their cadres to conduct such activities inside the campus that always hamper regular studies. Students aspiring to finish their studies in time and starting their career are very much frustrated.
The political leaders are often heard saying that educational institutions should be made zones of peace. However, they tell one thing and do the other. The victims of their petty interest have been the students, who are helpless. Thousands of students are enrolled in campuses recently, and one suspects that there is duplication, simply for the purpose of casting votes in the upcoming student union election. Students who take part in the elections never appear in classes again.
University rules are not followed while admitting these students. Campus and university authorities are unable to maintain law and order in their premises.
The teachers and authorities have to do what the students order, let alone the administrative staff. This is the real picture of modern Nepal’s academic institutions in general, and higher education in particular.
At a time when SAARC countries are moving towards international competition in higher education, we are many years backward. Some SAARC countries do not take Nepali students even though they are competent enough for further study with the kind of degree or certificate
they have now. Should not these be issues in student elections?
The main goal of the student unions is to fight for students’ rights, quality education being an important one. Their first concern should be the right type of education that develops their competency to become future builders of Nepal. They should ask the campus authorities for full time teaching-learning, more books and journals in the library, facilities for games and sports, IT facilities, space for study in the classrooms, smaller class size, competent teachers and a healthy environment.
They should also understand, as many research findings have shown, that one year’s loss in education causes six and a quarter year’s loss in their career and income generation.
Dr. Wagley is an educationist