Power And Politics Plague Policy


By Narayan Prasad Ghimire

The book under review, 'Samaj Adhyayan' (Series 16, 2021) is an education-special issue. The book include research articles, commentaries, memoirs and book reviews.  

The first article, penned by Lokranjan Parajuli, delves into the politics plaguing education policy during the Panchayat system, which lasted in the country from 1960 to 1990. 

He mentions schools as battlegrounds in the Panchayat period. The system was initiated when King Mahendra imposed his direct rule by disbanding political parties and even imprisong the the Prime Minister and the Speaker along with many leaders. The was the time when royal puppets had prevailed in the nation. 

The inclusive and participatory approach was banished and community-led initiatives for schools were nipped in the bud. This research article offers a detailed picture on how making of education policy in during the Panchayat was just a perpetuation of policies introduced by the autocratict Rana regime. The Rana regime was a terrible form of autocracy while the Panchayat was an invisible form of Shah autocracy and somewhat similar in spirit. 

In comparison, Ranarchy used to coerce people verbally while Panchayat coerced people by written rules and directives. So, policy making was aimed mainly at spreading a grand narrative of monarchy, or educating people was to prepare them to praise the system by keeping them within limit. Several rules, directives and acts were brought out by King Mahendra- all to control the freedom of the people. Interestingly, reflecting on the Rana Rule,  the then rulers used to mobilse its 'daudaha toli' to hand over justice on the spot', which, in fact, could be likened to what writer Parajuli terms 'Kangaroo Court'.  

As soon as King Mahendra took power, the budget for education was slashed considerably. The education policy was only an effort to validate the coup he effected in 1960 by disbanding the people- elected government led by Nepali Congress leader BP Koirala. The operation and management of schools were manipulated by directives of Badahakim, Anchaladhis and Panchayat Sabhapati, who were appointed by the King. Schools were not a place of learning or having freedom of attaining education. Moreover, those sidelined after the abolishment of Rana regime were resurfaced in the Panchayat system.  

In nutshell, the objective of educating people in Panchayat system was not to enlighten but to tame people so that they could not make any effort to subvert the system.

In a similar vein, a commentary by Krishna Prasad Poudel can be taken as the series of power that believes in collusion and plagues policy making. The commentary is personal account of the then member of the High Level National Education Commission, who brings to light that the formation of policy is guided by those in power, and the top executive power in Nepal are largely influenced by some arriviste groups. Although the country witnessed 'loktantra' which prides over people's supremacy in decision making, policy is not formed by aiming at broader welfare of people but to mollycoddle certain sections to thrive their profit-making business. Forming a commission seeking recommendation on educational reform in the country on the one hand and not making public the report and ditching it on the other reflects gross irresponsibility of the government. 

After the government failed to make public the report, most of the members of the Commission finally brought out the report on Mangsir 19, 2077BS. Politicos from different background, government employees and vested interest groups courted huge controversy on whether to make the report public. It drew huge criticism. The constitution has stated for socialism-oriented system, but the practice is against it, according to Poudel. 

There was fierce debate and differences among the members, especially on the state's role on education and private sector investment in education. The regulation of education run by private sector and commercialization of education were thorny issues which Poudel argued led to difference in the team and made government led by KP Oli hide the report. Coming from the analyses of Rana regime to Panchayat and to this present time rulers, one thing in common is 'people are to be ruled/controlled', 'power must be praised' and 'policy a matter of arriviste and aristocrats'.

Another research article by Labisha Uprety shows that after the nation was declared a federal state, the policy making is in a confused state. There is uncertainty-what is needed at local level educational institutions for quality education, who are actors of policy making and what are their roles. Although local level were the first institutional foundations to implement federal system, not getting necessary laws in time and dearth of capacity reflected in management of schools. The local levels are given rights by the constitution to run and manage the secondary level schools but its capacity has not been built. There is sheer trust deficit among school teachers and local level representatives and employees. She underscores the need of coordination and collaboration among the governments to catch federal spirit.  

It is worth noting that digitisation/digitalisation is gaining pace across the globe. It has also been an effective and convenient medium to maintain archive as well as. The developed countries, including the UK and the US, have maintained well the digital archive and library where one can find his/her countries old documents, photos, videos. 

It was exhilarating to read in a chapter by Santosh Khaderi 'Nepal in Digital Archive' that Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher was welcoming and presenting gifts to the British royals who used to come in Nepal for hunting. Doesn't anyone get excited to see the Rana Prime Minister filmed before 100 years? Such past events are however not available in Nepal- much more abroad- in the libraries of Britain, the US, India and others. Such information are very good resources for the researchers and those keen in studying history. The memoirs by some authoritative persons in the book are also important for avid readers.

Reading journal articles give different taste. It has well researched topics, fact-based analyses and the argument built accordingly. Production of academic rigour, this series (16) of Samaj Adhyayan tries to give a comprehensive outlook on policy making of education sector. Even the federal setup and the policy making in education at local level is described vividly.  The premises substantiated with argument and facts makes the book riveting. It is in need the quality of journal that differs from book. Reading book and journal article is quite different experience. Researchers, voracious readers, and those willing to build expertise can read such books which further whets appetite for knowledge. 

At a time when the trust on media and other institutions is eroding with the onset of digital deluge in Nepal, the book written with proper research are important base to build knowledge. Published by the Martin Chautari, academic research institute in Nepal, the book costs Rs 300.

Published: 17 June 2022
Source: https://risingnepaldaily.com/news/12679

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