Spare academia

2014-04-05

Himalayan News Service

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Confession by Education Minister Gangalal Tuladhar of having been utterly unable to curb the practice of sharing the appointment of vice-chancellors and other high-profile positions of seven universities between the political parties of the country is a stark reminder of the fact that politics has penetrated every sphere of Nepali society including education. The revelation of this shameful fact in the meeting of Legislature-Parliamentary Committee on International Relations and Human Rights on July 31 lays bare the bitter truth of  how deeply hamstrung our academia has been by petty politics and how  political parties are turning our learning  centers into political battle fields for their vested interests.

Infringement of politics has adversely marred progress and growth of scholarship and intellectual engagement, especially in Nepal’s public education sector. From primary level to senior high school teachers in the schools to lecturers and vice-chancellors in the universities, most appointments are made on the basis of candidate’s political profile rather than on the basis of his/her meritocracy. The trend has reached such an alarming high that to get appointment in these institutions one has to be a flag bearer of a certain political party or have sound backing of some influential leader. As a result, performance of students and prospective graduates in schools and universities has nosedived. While pass percentage of public school students in SLC remains nowhere comparable to their private counterparts, the number of students enrolling in Tribhuvan University and other public universities is declining every year. The main reason for this is none other than the politicization of academia.

Education receives huge fund from government and non-government sources, including I/NGOs and donor agencies. This year alone, Nepal government has allocated Rs 57.65 billion for education. This is 17.1 percent of the total budget and is 24.5 percent higher in comparison to last year’s budget. This hefty sum, though little in comparison to education budget in many developed countries, cannot be used just to feed the political appointees who will more often than not be busy in propagating the agendas of their respective political parties rather than engaging in scholarship, research and teaching.

The country has had too much of politics in the public institutions. The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has been headless for four years owing to feuds among the political parties over who should be appointed as commissioners. The same is true of other public offices. Against this backdrop, we applaud the initiatives taken by lawmakers Gagan Thapa and Narahari Acharya, both of whom vociferously advocated for depoliticization of at least the academia in the meeting of Committee on International Relations and Human Rights. We call upon all the stakeholders to follow suit and strive to make our educational institutions politics-free. Educational institutions are sacred sites for learning. Politicians should spare the academia and allow them to function purely on the basis of merit.

(Source: Republica Nepal)