Train the political leaders Making education work in Nepal
The issue of functional education system in the country has often been raised. However, though the political leaders seem to worry sometimes about it but nothing has been done to raise the standard of education. The executives are selected from among the lawmakers in Nepal. That is why they make laws according to the interest of their respective political parties, and education is no exception. They influence the cabinet in every way possible. The interest is rivetted by the number-game politics. Moreover, major political parties now show no interest in the Ministry of Education. Whoever becomes the Minister seems to engage in appointing their political cadres to different posts, visiting abroad and, in some cases, earning while in position. Donors are blind-folded; they simply want to please the masters of their own country ostensibly showing Nepal’s need for this or that. In other words, they want to come to Nepal to enjoy our natural beauty, live a luxurious life with the kind of exchange rates here, keep our politicians in good humor, make a fool of the people and return to their country. This is how education has fared for the past two decades.
In the frequently changing political scenario, along with the transition, the sufferers are the students, the future builders. Students have been sandwiched between their own student unions and the education system. Each political party, in open or in disguised form, has its own student union active in all campuses of all the universities of Nepal. They have also started their networking in many private and community managed colleges. So far, their activities have not promoted the strength of educational quality nor maintained the calendar in academic institutions. Rather they have been the obstacles of regular and smooth operation of day to day teaching-learning activities of the campuses. And their mother political parties have been supporting them continuing this for decades. This demonstrates that the political parties have no concern for the academic strength of our future generation. In fact, most Nepalis today have apathy towards the political parties except those who enjoy being near to power-politics to fulfill their petty interest. Are the meritorious students happy? No, because they have no trust over the MoE system whether it is the scholarship selection process or the entrance tests for renowned foreign universities. Are regular students happy? No, because they are always disrupted by a small group of political cadres (the so-called students) in campus. Moreover, they have no idea how long it will take to complete a two years course or a four years course. In the past seven years students had to spend almost double time to complete their degree. Are parents happy? No, they always are worrying about the completion of their children’s education let alone their investment. Are the authorities happy? No, they always are troubled by this or that politically influenced group disturbing their academic calendar. They also are threatened by their own students, sometimes manhandled and black smeared. Who are happy then? A small group of politically influenced students seem happy who wish to make their political career right from the campus level. And they have seen many of their friends, doing the same, promoted to Members of the Parliament, CA members and Ministers within a short period of time. All these demonstrate that the political leaders are making educational institutions the training grounds for their cadres laced with petty interests.
Thus, the National Planning Commission, before making any education agenda for the people, should think of making plans to educate the political party leaders to make them understand the value of education. The Ministry of Education should open schools for these leaders to tell them how important education is for the development of the country. Most of our political leaders are high school graduates so this would be a very good exercise for the MoE. Universities should have separate colleges to educate these leaders so that they will not instruct their cadres to create unnecessary hue and cry in colleges. Unless our political leaders are educated, the disturbance in the education system will continue. Priority should be given to those who have already become ministers in the past, the members looking after the education sector of each political party, student leaders, teachers’ union leaders and the like. It is unfortunate that persons working as president and members of Professors’ Associations are ready to serve political parties showing without heeding the deteriorating condition of higher education in the country. They need to be provided with good education and training organized by the University itself. Until now most of them do not even know how to work towards improving the education standard. However, they will not listen to anyone other than their political masters, so the political leaders need to be educated first.
(Dr. Wagley is an educationist)