In Nepal, many things happen which do not take place so interestingly in the academia of the world. Sometimes, the former king had invited a tender for the post of the prime minister. And, many a Nepali citizens had applied for the position. Now, the education minister has invited certain people of his interest to submit their action plan if they want to become the vice-chancellor (VC) of the universities of Nepal. What can the minister do? Neither he has the roster of academicians of this country nor does he know anybody besides his own party cadres. The so-called academias of our country are really organic intellectuals who serve the politics of their interest better than the academic institutions they hold.
To reflect back, our experiences are there to tell us that the party in power wants to hire empty-headed people as executives in educational institutions so that they can reap the fruits they want. To support this statement, only one example is enough, i.e., the number of contractual teachers in some universities of Nepal. Employing teachers without competition on a contract basis, advertising positions only for the contractual teachers without providing opportunity to other competent and qualified people, and putting the same group in permanent tenure are all possible here. The same scenario can be seen for the non-academic staffs also. This is the reason why the quality of university education has been deteriorating these days to the extent that our graduates are not even accepted by renowned universities of the world. Is this not a shame to the whole nation? What was the crime of the students? Their only crime was to trust our universities.
Let us talk about another scenario of higher education. Our universities even postpone on-going examinations of the students to serve their political masters. What can be more an unethical character of the executives than this one? Moreover, the positions of the executives in the universities remain vacant for years in the midst of dirty politics. In such a scenario, how can one claim that the government is serious about the production of human resources for the development of the country?
Most of our universities do not even have the calendar of operation. Doesn’t this seem ridiculous for a univrsity? One can see students being enrolled in colleges on the eve of the examinations, examinations not being conducted as per prior circulated notice, and postponing examinations is a regular feature. Similarly, examination results are not published in time—mostly 6 to 10 months after the examination is over. Colleges do not have regular classes, sometimes in the name of student politics and sometimes the teachers’.
In fact, 95 per cent of the university students want to their studies to continue unhindered so that they would be able to earn their degrees on schedule. However, it is the minority who disturb the schedule, very often putting their unnatural demands before the executives. The five per cent students are the die-hard cadres of the national political parties of Nepal. They want to make their career with the universities as their plank, and they create disruptions in the education system. One can see student leaders in their 40s registering for one or two courses as students in the university just to do this. Moreover, the same group does not hesitate to smear the faces of the university executives with soot or tar.
Where should one go to find the meaning of the term ‘discipline’ in higher education? Student unions, professor unions, non-academic staff unions all want to have their petty interests fulfilled, for which they create chaos in the university system. Is it really necessary for these unions to use the same election symbol as the political parties they are affiliated to? What does this indicate? Are they anxious about academics at all?
These are some of the problems the executives have not yet been able to solve. And, everyone knows that the main reason of all this chaos is the political appointment of the executives. At present, positions of VC are lying vacant in some universities, and the education minister has invited proposals from those who visited him to be blessed as VC.
The minister did one thing right by asking them to provide their proposals to improve the university situation, but, at the same time, he committed the mistake of only asking his cadres who want to be blessed. Whatever the case, we cannot trust the minister or the cabinet that they will appoint non-political figures as university executives. At a time when splitting such positions has been a big issue among the political parties in power, would there be any miracles the way we think?
As the Chancellor, the Prime Minister should take the responsibility of the pathetic situations. Unless the country maintains a roster of professionals, and requests the best ones to serve the country, not only education but all sectors of the country will suffer. Academicians also should posit themselves as academicians, not as political cadres. They should be respected by the country, not go door to door to be blessed as VC.
Dr. Wagley is an educationist
(Source: The Himalayantimes)