A bachelor´s level teacher at Kathmandu University was recently heard complaining that the youth he was teaching simply didn’t care about Nepali politics. Apparently, the endless cycles of strikes and bandas witnessed right around the country in the previous month or so, and their larger implications, bothered them the least bit so long as their lives were not affected directly. It is hard to say whether this is a healthy trend. For it is questionable whether the country stands to benefit more if students completely devote themselves to their studies and serve the society as capable future engineers, architects and doctors, instead of having to keep up with all the twists and turns of the convoluted modern-day Nepali politics. In comparison, at public colleges it is just the opposite. A hundred students are crammed into a room that comfortably fits 50, the teachers scold students who ask hard questions, infrequent classes makes student rely on handy ‘guides’ which are to be crammed 15 days ahead of final exams. For the rest of the time, they while away precious hours discussing country’s politics. Many are also involved with student unions.
Both the groups of students would be forgiven for believing that all politicians are corrupt and care about nothing more than shoring up their vote banks, when not scheming to bag plum posts. The inescapable news of top politicians facing lengthy jail terms only serve to increase their cynicism of the political establishment. Even those actively involved in youth politics are disillusioned when their mother parties completely bypass them from important deliberations and connive to keep them away from important positions. Perhaps the best example of how old Nepali leaders tend to monopolize power within their party was Girija Prasad Koirala’s iron-grip on Nepali Congress between mid-1990s until his death in 2010. As much as he contributed to national politics, his tendency to sideline all opposition within the party and his dismal failure to train a new batch of leaders leaves the Grand Old Party desperately short of capable youth leaders when it needs them the most. When the youth see how their leaders tend to cling on to power well into their dotage, it can hardly inspire young minds to think about playing a meaningful role in national polity.
Another big problem is that no effort has been made to reach out to the youth and impress on them the importance and implication of government policy and programs on their own lives. The youth is always eager to learn new things. If their interest can be piqued, there is no reason why they cannot play a bigger role in national politics and policymaking. In the long run, the state must look to harness greater, constructive engagement with its youth. For now, a time when people’s trust in their elected representatives is perhaps at its all-time low, it is upon the political leadership to pull up their socks and inspire some confidence among the young crowd