Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Students' Moral Bankruptcy

There are thousands of students in Nepal that would cherish attending university level courses but cannot do so because of the harsh economic realities of life. Unfortunately, the ones that get a chance to attend a university hardly realize how fortunate they are to get a degree. This is evident from the act of vandalism that took place a couple of weeks ago. Students of the Education Department of the Tribhuvan University set ablaze the central department of Education alleging that the recent results of first year Masters Level studies were unfair. This is not the फर्स्ट time that students have indulged themselves in vandalism. It seems to have become a common practice.

Are these students, who indulged in acts of vandalism, really committed ones who want to enrich their lives or is it an act of budding student politicians who think student politics is an expressway to national politics? If those involved in vandalism are really serious students committed to getting good grades and want to make more of life, we should immediately correct the system.

Taking actions against those professors that are careless and do not understand the sacrifices students make and long hours they put in would be a good start. We should not let these professors' actions dampen the spirit of our young minds. But if it is an act of so-called student leaders, then time is ripe to start thinking about reforming student politics in colleges and universities across the nation.

Our college campuses should not be allowed to become infested by dirty politics. It should by no means be allowed to become a breeding ground for those sleazy politicians of tomorrow. There is a vast difference between a student assembly or union comprising neutral students that fight for the rights of the students and a front organization of political parties that operate within college campuses. Not that I condone vandalism but there is nothing to fear when a student association works for advancement of education and student rights.

However, we do need to be concerned when our innocent students that have the power of changing the face of our nation are used and abused by political parties for their own political gains.

Students should be given a chance to start their educational career with a fresh mind which is not polluted with political biases. Under the prevailing conditions, the first thing incoming college student receives is the membership of a front organization of political parties that operate in almost every college campuses across the nation. This breeds biased ideologues instead of a genuine patriotic professional. Students come out of our universities with a politically biased mind and start viewing all of those with opposing political views as a regressive element of society. This does more harm than good because it depletes the level of political and social tolerance in a society.

When it comes to student politics what we need to understand is that it should be the students that are benefited from the causes that student leaders pursue. It is hard to comprehend how vandalizing a department benefits students. How does vandalism help solve the problem of carelessness on the part of a professor? If we are trying to scare professors and force them to curve the grades for good grades alone then the students would be without sound knowledge, which is not useful.

In this competitive world, you may be able to get a job with good grades but will not be able to succeed in the absence of real knowledge. If phony grades were of any help, all those students who buy certificates from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India and have distinction would all have become doctors, engineers, and highest ranking officials in Nepal. Thus, we should strive towards making our educational institutions competitive and set the highest possible standard for our students rather than reducing it to a phony degree granting machine.

Student politics is not a bad thing in itself. Some of the finest leaders of our time have a past in student politics. However, what racks ordinary citizens' mind is that how far they have crossed the line. Setting ablaze a department where thousands of aspiring teachers had dreamt of gaining the valuable skills that a good teacher possesses is a heinous crime.

There are good students and there are bad students, just like there are good professors and bad professors. We should find a better way to straighten out the act of those careless professors out there whose acts malign the image of educators and certainly vandalism of a department is not the way to resolve this problem. When we could bring down King Gyananda's despotic rule by resorting to non-violent means we can definitely get the act of our careless professors straight without inflicting harm to our alma mater.

There is, no doubt, that the students have been at the forefront of every political and social movements of Nepal. Be it 1980, 1990, or 2006's democratic movement, students made tremendous contributions and sacrifices for the establishment of democracy.

It is not only in Nepal but throughout the globe, students have played and continue to play important roles when it comes to fighting against injustices. Be it against apartheid in South Africa or against the Vietnam War in America, students organized themselves and vehemently opposed against apartheid and war.

However, after the end of Vietnam War students got back to their campuses and prioritized their studies. Students' associations in Europe and America are more into working for the educational advancement of the fellow students rather than working as political pawns in the dirty games of political parties.

It is an open secret that students are the strongest weapons of the political parties to organize a successful movement that can bring down any government in Nepal. But, unfortunately at the cost of the year lost or sometimes lives for the benefit of political parties. Students should decide for themselves if it is worth it.

We freed ourselves from Rana oligarchy more than five decades ago, and have witnessed many forms of governments, but the plight of the common people continues unabated. No matter what form of government we choose to have the hard reality is that thousands of people are still forced to go to bed hungry every night.

Thus, we cannot afford to put students in the streets against the government again and again. Students are not a political weapon but they are our investment in future economic growth. We can change the government by simply following the democratic process -- voting them out, if we are unsatisfied with their performance.

University students should consider themselves as a fortunate few whose dreams are still afloat. Those who are now in universities have an opportunity and a moral responsibility to build the future of this country for which our politicians simply do not have the time or intention to consider.

If students do not realize their moral responsibility now, there cannot be any hope that this hungry nation would ever do justice to or offer any dignity to those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.

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