Here is a sample of the conversation between this scribe as the Chief Judge in an event and a group of new SLC graduates in town:
Q: Now that you are done with the SLC with excellent score, what would you like to have in a dream Plus Two programme or a college as your next academic stop for higher education?
A: This institution has to have more stuff inside so that we can satisfy our academic needs – such as highly qualified and capable teachers, excellent physical and academic (both curricular and extra-curricular) facilities, lack of political activities, and on top of all these, a caring environment in place.
The whole idea, according to the organiser, was to give a creative push to the tender participants’ quest for a changed and glamorous personality, adding a few fitting skills to their instinct and capacity. Thus the gap between the SLC exams and Plus Two enrolment session was creatively filled in through a host of activities organised for them.
Each of the 30 participants spoke fluent and flawless English and Nepali with the determination to claim the crown of ‘SLC Princess 2011.’
The off-hand, well-structured and articulated answer from 15-16-year-old students pleasantly surprised not only the questioner but also other judges, guests, families and friends of both the students and the organisers. Forty or 50 years ago, students of this level and age would not have been able to hold the microphone in their hand and speak face to face with their educated elders and other seniors on several current and relevant issues in public, media-dominated events such as this one.
But it was also not possible then to see such focussed and highly socialising events like the one to be mentioned here. With time, several things have changed - there are more opportunities, challenges and risks at the same time. And, these young girls on Saturday night demonstrated not only their willingness and readiness to go for challenges but also their inquisitiveness to go for higher learning through our fast mushrooming Plus Two colleges.
Glamour and education
The event was – SLC Princess, 2011, a well organised and publicised glamorous event put together by Season Media (SM), based in Kathmandu. The event was held at the Rastriya Nachghar, Jamal last Saturday evening. SM had selected 30 girls from different high schools of Kathmandu and given them training on different skills related to their personality formation and growth.
It was something like a Miss Nepal pageant in terms of activity areas covered by the organisers for the contestants’ participation and the glamour these activities bred to the excitement and enthusiasm of the young girls for a period of one whole month. During the period of one month, SM had provided these young and energetic girls with various skills and activities as if they were to take part in a Miss Nepal pageant or something of that nature.
According to Pradipraj Onta, Director of the media house, this programme was getting popular by the year as many young participants found it useful for their further studies and socialisation in their life ahead. A panel of judges, representatives of the Higher Secondary Education Board, journalists, campus chiefs and other noted educationists who attended the event were taken by surprise by the participants’ talents.
Now back to the question-answer of the final round participated in by seven finalists. Collectively, their answers in written form not only pleased the judges, the organisers, guests and participants, they also posed a challenge for the potential Plus Two programmes and colleges they would eventually be enrolling to build their career.
Behind the glamorous scenario attended by the 30 contestants, there are some two hundred thousand odd SLC graduates lining up for enrollment in Grade XI. Many of them living in the remote areas have seen their nearby colleges eliminating the Certificate level studies forever and the government not doing anything to provide them an option through the local secondary schools.
For the Plus Two programmes and colleges in cities like Kathmandu or, for that matter, in other parts of the country, the obvious challenge today is to upgrade their facilities in order to accommodate the young learners, providing them all the facilities and opportunities succinctly put forward by the said programme participants as their expectations.
The ground reality
If one goes through the newspapers this week, there is not much to read - there is much to see how much resource is being spent by the colleges and Plus Two programmes to make the media houses prosperous by the day. The colorful ads clearly demonstrate that the resource thus spent is not scarce – indeed it is coming spontaneously from an unlimited store and will keep flowing.
For those who like to funnel such resources, there is an urgent need to add glamour to their institutions. But again, the young girls who participated in the Saturday night’s event said the urgent need was to equip the institutions with more facilities - libraries, computers, seminar halls, gardens, lawns, cafeterias, open spaces, and a highly qualified and committed team of teachers.
These expensive ads do not say much about the interior, and only visits by the candidates themselves will prove their worth. The colleges know that first and foremost, many students themselves want the new institutions to be better than the high schools they just left in terms of get-up. Therefore, lift the face as far as you can to impress the new-comers.
Thus begins the cycle of unhealthy competition of throwing huge amounts of money around for less substantial issues like showing the roofs, balconies, walls and windows through the ads. And yet, this trend may not subside in the foreseeable future as long as we have a bunch of students who go for glamour.
However, the participants of the event mentioned here wisely said rather unequivocally that good outward look of the college is fine, but what is essential is the inward beauty, as in a human being, so that their personality now at the formative stage gets substantial support and nourishment through a focussed academic programme with all the paraphernalia it can add up for creative learning.
And, finally, so be it if we wish to groom the younger generation to lift up the face of the ‘failing nation.’
(Source: The Rising Nepal, Published on The Rising Nepal on June 27)